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Film / Dark Side of the Moon

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Opération Lune is a 2002 mockumentary created by French documentary filmmaker William Karel and originally aired on the European TV network Arte in a timeslot usually given over to real documentaries. There is also a version with an English-language narration, titled Dark Side of the Moon.

The purported subject of the film is a plot by NASA to create fake footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick, but its real purpose is to demonstrate the ways an unscrupulous documentary is capable of twisting truth. It features interviews with real people, including Buzz Aldrin and Henry Kissinger, who are made by Manipulative Editing to seemingly support the film's assertions, as well as interviews with fictional figures portrayed by actors.

The film maintains a serious tone for most of its running time, but contains numerous hints encouraging the observant viewer not to take it at face value, which become more blatant as the film progresses. The end credits acknowledge the fictional nature of the film, crediting the actors involved, and showing outtakes in which they break character.

Not to be confused with the horror film The Dark Side of the Moon (1990) or the 1973 Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon.

This film contains examples of:

  • As Himself: Vernon Walters, a real life United States Army officer and diplomat, has great fun playing a Deep Throat-like informant.
  • He Knows Too Much: The film claims that after the filming of the fake moon landing footage was complete, President Nixon in a fit of paranoia had many of the people involved murdered, for fear that the KGB would gain evidence of the fakery and use it to discredit America's achievements in space. Kubrick was supposedly spared because his high public profile made it too risky to try anything on him.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: At the very end of the film there is a series of clips showing out-takes from the staged interviews, with the actors playing the interviewees breaking character in various ways. (And, just to keep the viewer on their toes, one of the clips is another bit of manipulative editing making one of the real people appear to have been in on the joke.)
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Toward the end of the film, an interview about what became of one of the people involved in the conspiracy turns turns out to have all been set-up for a silly pun. One of the out-takes at the very end shows the actor who played the interviewee groaning at the pun.
  • Manipulative Editing: Extensively used to make real people appear to be saying things that they weren't really. Some of them weren't even really talking about NASA or Kubrick — the interview footage of Kissinger and other political notables was originally filmed for Karel's earlier (genuine) documentary The Men of the White House.
  • Mockumentary: Pretends to be a serious documentary about an entirely fictional sequence of events.
  • Moon-Landing Hoax: The film is based on the conspiracy theory that NASA got Stanley Kubrick to film fake footage of the Apollo astronauts on the moon.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Vernon Walters, former Deputy Director for Central Intelligence during the Nixon administration, died shortly after being interviewed for the film. This was incorporated into the plot, with the film suggesting that he'd been done in to prevent him telling the filmmakers what he knew.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the way the film hints at its hoax nature is that most of the fictional interviewees who appear are named after characters from earlier films, including Kubrick's body of work (most obviously an astronaut named David Bowman) and several of Alfred Hitchcock's conspiracy thrillers (in a neat touch, these include CIA agents named Ambrose Chapel and George Kaplan, after the non-existent spies in The Man Who Knew Too Much and North By Northwest).
    • At one point, the film's soundtrack uses the song "The American Dream" from Wag the Dog, another film about filmmakers manipulating and faking reality.