Christopher Nolan and his art team could have just served me the single image above as the whole movie of ‘Interstellar’ and I would have happily paid for the ticket. Everything else in the three-hour epic cinematic feast with several sappy human moments is a bonus.
Many lofty themes illuminate the movie. One of them is particularly striking because it likens gravity to love. It is almost as if Nolan and co-writer, his brother, Jonathan are suggesting that the two are interchangeable. Love does indeed permeate as efficiently as gravity does. This is a sentimental idea which I would normally recoil from but there is scientific validity to it in the sense that an astronaut in a different galaxy feels the same powerfully subtle tug of those people and things he or she loves back on Earth as gravity. In fact, in many ways that force is way more powerful because it is individualized and even physically affecting.
Being temperamentally detached, I have never really liked the idea of humanizing fundamental scientific ideas but I am willing to concede that the gravity-love comparison is innovative and thoughtful.
Another grand theme, which has always been familiar to me, is the distinction that the film makes between the survival of particular individuals and that of the species and drives home the point that the latter is more important. Of course, there is an equally strong counter to it in the form of Mathew McConaughey who is focused on his immediate family back on Earth and their survival.
A third theme that the film drives home forcefully is the idea of space exploration as a human necessity. Forget the rest of the world, America has more than enough money to fund very expensive space exploration for the next 500 years. It is incumbent of the country to dramatically increase that funding.
I no longer review creative works from the standpoint of evaluating their artistic merit. For a fairly long time it has been my view that an artist or someone like that has created something and that’s that. There is no point assessing such works from the standpoint of the benchmarks that we have created to judge them.
That said, ‘Interstellar’ is a fantastic cinematic accomplishment in terms of its ambition to weave great scientific ideas into a human story. Its attempt to fuse high science with actual people as opposed to the scientific community is highly laudable.
While watching it I kept thinking of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Contact’. Incidentally, ‘Contact’ also featured McConaughey but I had forgotten about it.
While both ‘2001’ and ‘Contact’ are somewhat impersonal and carefully detached from the mawkish, ‘Interstellar’ embraces it with gusto. There is a scene in ‘Interstellar’ where McConaughey’s character Cooper, just before he leaves for his expedition, is talking to his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) who does not want him to go. She is distraught at the idea of her dad leaving. After some conversation, McConaughey holds her and embraces her from behind as she is sitting up in her bed. That must rank as one of the best father-daughter moments on screen.
I would not like to get into the whole plot and its intricate and often incomprehensible details here. My focus was on the cinematic splendor of the film. Apart from the image above, there were many which were utterly spellbinding,including that of Saturn near which a wormhole materializes to take the astronauts to another galaxy by folding space-time and the spectacularly icy planet Miller (below).
It is obvious that Nolan has poured everything into this project. When that happens to any creative enterprise, viewers/audience/spectators feel automatically drawn to it. Apart from love, passion must also be considered one of the primal forces, although it works in proximities. It is like a near field force.
Nolan’s trademark directorial approach of treating the audience as mature and equipped with a certain amount of intelligence continues here as well. He does not get into obvious explanations of anything but leaves it to the inferring powers of the audience to make sense of many high ideas. The recurrence of gravity throughout the film is one such instance. I suspect at the end of the movie the audience felt it more than it comprehended. And for most who do not pursue science as a profession, that is good enough.
‘Interstellar’ is a spectacular inquiry into science and life. Everybody must watch it. In countries, where people cannot afford it, it should be distributed free in their local language. It is not specific to a country or a culture but for the species.