Moonage Daydream from Neon, directed by Brett Morgen, is as surreal and unconventional as the person the film encapsulates. David Bowie was one of the progenitors of a unique style and mindset that embraces differences. The documentary plays clips from Bowie’s interviews and performances, with clips of the mystical, planetary, unknown vastness of space. Fans of David Bowie will love this film, but there is more here; Moonage Daydream does more than Bowie songs with kaleidoscopic imagery; it allows viewers to see the arc of Bowie’s thoughts and feelings. 

My first introduction to Bowie, where I knew, or made an effort to learn, who he was, started with the 1986 film Labyrinth, where he starred alongside Jennifer Connelly. I thought he was beautiful, and the soundtrack for the film is still one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. Bowie changed a lot over his decades-long career, yet the core may have never changed because all his personas were about exploration. Like man’s trip to the moon, Bowie traveled the uncharted terrains within himself, constantly pushing the envelope on his capabilities.

Touches On Mental Health

Moonage Daydream still of David Bowie in front of an audience with his back to the camera
Moonage Daydream still. Courtesy of Neon

The documentary explores mental health and the worry that family members might have the same mental health issues. When people see how society treats those with mental health issues, the concern always remains, niggling in the recesses of the mind. When thoughts, desires, and appearance are different, that fear that something is wrong always exists; only the degrees vary. Bowie used artistic expression to help him propel any inward thoughts outward. Artistic creation is excellent for healing and dealing with internalized issues or ideas. It is not a cure, but sometimes it is a cleansing. 

Moonage Daydream Journeys Through Personas With Amazing Music

Moonage Daydream still of David Bowie singing into a mic, one arm raised in the air as multiple hands reach for him.
Moonage Daydream still. Courtesy of Neon

A plethora of Bowie styles and music play through the documentary, including “Moonage Daydream” and “We Can Be Heroes,” and I had to resist jumping up as the latter played. I hope there is a soundtrack for this film. Music allows you to stew in emotion, but others, like Bowie, transport the listener. There are so many clips and scenes that no David Bowie fan can identify every single source for the array of vast imagery. Moonage Daydream does not try to take the larger-than-life career of David Bowie and contain it but leans into the expansiveness. 

Honest About Growth

Moonage Daydream of David Bowie in a red shirt, arms splayed out to his sides.
Moonage Daydream still. Courtesy of Neon

Bowie’s ideas on identity are not necessarily innovative. After all, philosophers of the past ask many of those same questions. What stands out is the lack of artifice. He does not portray the arrogant attitude many arthouse creators exhibit. You know, the ones like abstract poets who give a pitying glance when you ask about their poems. The “if you do not get it, you are too low-brow to understand” crowd. 

David Bowie was more than a singer and actor, but a painter. He did not want a stagnant existence. The malleability that composes the self, the universe, and the search for it all, mattered. The phrase “artistic expression” encapsulates David Bowie. Also, the concept of time, age, and experience play a role in David Bowie’s transitions from one persona to the next. When young, Bowie had no interest in love. Until Iman. Getting older is not and does not have to be a four-letter word. 

Kindness is as valuable as talent and charisma; it is rare to see them embodied in one person. David Bowie is relatable because everyone learns, develops, and sinks into themselves in time. It is not the end of a journey, but getting comfortable in the skin while traveling. Moonage Daydream takes audiences on a colorful, enriched journey about an icon’s journey through music and self. A wondrous journey that makes you want to play it back at the beginning. 

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