A surreal and engaging movie about personal and universal themes
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, and Matt Damon
Once upon a time there was a shuttle humanity sent out in the space-time loom. Imagination and curiosity have always been the longitudinal threads that allow for the shuttle’s expedition. The crew was full of storytellers, including many grandmothers, Stanley Kubrick, and a 44-year-old screenwriter, film director Christopher Nolan.
Interstellar (2014) is a speculative depiction of the Pale Blue Dot through the story of Cooper, a former NASA pilot and a father. In his bland future, humanity puts technology and progress behind and returns to the old ways, focusing solely on food production. Cooper is committed to help the surreptitious incarnation of NASA to save the human species from extreme climate, famine, and totalitarian disdain for space missions.
Interstellar implodes and explodes between highly personal and universal themes interwoven in and out of wormholes. Aeronautical high-precision decisions executed by Cooper are rendered effortless and simple compared to the one intimate decision to leave his daughter. The binary moment echoes through spacetime to haunt Cooper, and eventually explodes into a tesseract. The hypercube of interdimensional events is dramatically and visually the most impressive point of the movie.
The film features a fine list of performers. Matthew McConaughey (an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club) plays Cooper. Michael Caine, Alfred from Nolan’s Batman installments and winner of two Oscars, plays the head of NASA, professor Brand. Anne Hathaway (an Oscar for Les Misérables) plays Caine’s biologist daughter Amelia. Matt Damon (an Oscar for Good Will Hunting) has a small role on the other side of the wormhole. Murph is animated by three different actresses, 14-year-old Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help), and Ellen Burstyn. Murph is the only character Nolan commendably illustrates in details. With a pencil in her hair, young Murph is captivated by encryptions. She is also stubborn and eager to participate as she takes over the car’s gear stick as her father drives. She is a lovely and realistic portrait of many little girls of the 21st century.
Nolan’s Interstellar may be considered the present version of Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (1968). Though not as elegantly produced as Kubrick’s avant-garde vignette, Nolan’s non-linear epic is a more accessible work of realism with scalable themes, casting audience under the three-hour spell of beautiful CGI’s and bursts of palpitations.
Realism is not only a more effective vessel to deliver a space-time fable, but also a wonderful domain for exploration and practice. We have entered a world where art embraces science, where realism and magical realism merge seamlessly to let us work with funky weft and woof to baffle our own id, ego, and superego. We have left surrealism in the past. We can now probe the unknowns with the knowns. Scientists are now probabilistically poets. Vice versa, et cetera, and so on.
Almost identical slices of a lonely object of polar symmetry paired with classical music, among other similarities, suggest that perhaps the allusion to Kubrick’s work is not at all accidental. Overlaying the two films is overlaying two cross-sections of humanity drawn at two points almost half a decade apart. The two stories share comparable constituents that yield curious opportunities for analysis — from HAL and TARS as artificial intelligent characters, to the names of heroic spacecrafts Discovery and Endurance.
Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer had worked together on a few films including The Prestige and Inception. The collaborative process between the two experiential designers is revealed to the public by Zimmer on Quora. We learn that Nolan included Zimmer earlier in the process of writing Interstellar, moving between sensory layers as they built up the whole film. Zimmer mentions that Nolan apparently cut and spliced Interstellar in his garage, granting leniency to unrefined transitions and a certain lack of grace. Nolan successfully conserves and conveys the energy of the creative process. The result is a raw, straightforward work. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Well, he didn’t.
Interstellar has something to give, regardless of your age, genetic predisposition, or interests. The movie cures conditions such as lackluster eyes or monotonous ringing in the ears. It may introduce new puzzles to pass the time, or complete a picture one has been working on for a while. I had been obsessing over a model in my mind for months. Interstellar offered me missing parts it needed to work.
As I exited the movie theater and entered the outside, I “mistook” a column in front of me for a wall thickness. Yesterday, a lit surface became a window. There is always the benefit of hearing a story or seeing a piece of textile: someone from somewhere else in spacetime is always working very hard to give you a point of reference in your journey — you are not alone or out of your mind.
We have come so far it is hard to tell apart dreams from data, here from there, not yet from already. For just a speck of dust in the endless nothingness, the Pale Blue Dot is a beautiful place to be.