Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Mathew McConaughey, Ann Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine
Runtime: 179 minutes Year: 2014
As a self-proclaimed cinephile, I shamelessly brag to anyone who would listen that I watched Nolan’s “Memento” at a theater when no one knew who the director was. I was either 17 or 18 back then. As young and naive as I was, watching the movie was a transformative experience; it was that day that I felt the greatness of film. Since then, the movie, along with Won Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love,” remains my all-time favorite movies.
Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.
His new movie, “Interstellar”, is better than “Inception,” yet for the sake of space-movie comparison, is not better than Cuaron’s “Gravity.” Beginning with “Inception”, Nolan’s movies have become overtly post-modern. Although “Interstellar” seems to have a grand-narrative that guides the story in a fairly linear fashion during the runtime of 3 hours, a viewer should not try to comprehend all, or even most, of the storyline, or at least the logic underlying the storyline structure. Like many post-modern products, the effect (or pure experience) triumphs the content, and this is true for “Interstellar” as well.
Let’s hope that the cultural products are not reliable depiction of reality because this movie continues the endless outpouring of the-earth-will-come-to-end-very-soon movies in recent years. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former Nasa astronaut but now a mere farmer in a corn field, is convinced by old Dr. Grand (Michael Caine) to fly out to the space to find a new, habitable planet because our earth is dying. Cooper, beside being a former astronaut and a farmer, is foremost a father. He has a son and a daughter, and his relationship with the latter is what drives most of his choices.
Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.
The spaceship, named ‘Endurance’, travels through the wormhole to enter another galaxy to gather data left by the astronauts previously flown out a decade earlier. As most space movies are wont to be, the dramas ensue due to our limited understanding of the infinite, dark space, the conflicted priorities of the astronauts, and of course, the altered space-time continuum. When they land on a planet circling near the wormhole, their single hour is equivalent to 7 years in Earth time. As can be expected, something goes awry, and they end up spending more than 3 hours on the planet. When they get back on the spaceship, 23 years’ worth of video messages from the earth are compiled, and when Cooper watches the messages, sobbing, knowing that in just 3 hours, he had missed in entirely his children growing, any parents would shed tears along with him.
Yes, although the movie is supposedly about the end-of-the-world and space travel, it is also about human relationship, especially that of father-daughter. Another parallel father-daughter relationship is drawn by old Dr. Brand and his daughter (Ann Hathaway). In an interview, Nolan mentioned that he couldn’t have made the film if he himself had no daughter. His previous movie, “Inception”, also featured a main character who wanted to return to his children. This desire and his subsequent decisions to realize it took precedence over all others. This simple portrayal of parent-child relationship played out in the background of infinite spaces and dreams, an allegory that love, gravity, and power of our dreams are equally powerful force in our lives, is maybe Nolan’s greatest feat in his recent movies.
Nolan, in this movie, wittily plays with the concept of altered space-time continuum. Possibly the highlight of the movie, the scene where Cooper is aloft and lost inside the wormhole is interesting and complex. In the wormhole, he realizes that he can communicate to Earth in its any given time frame, even the past. In short, he can control all the contingencies of the events. Is there such thing as fate? Or are our fates also controlled by ourselves? That whatever happens happens due to our choices and actions only? Do Harry Potter readers remember in Book 3 that it was Harry himself who saved himself from death-eaters from the other side of the river? Here, Nolan is embedding a subtler message that we are responsible for everything and that there is no one to blame, especially our responsibilities to each other and to the earth.
The movie, unanimously praised by general populace yet divided among critics, is a truly unique movie experience. Although not cogent in some places, the movie entertains and touches us. With this much amount of entertainment and pathos, the movie is bound to succeed, both commercially and artistically.
Interview with the director: