INTERSTELLAR: Love, Time, and Gravity

Posted by hanjeno.o
2014. 11. 25. 22:01 EDITORIAL/문화 & 예술 :: Culture & Art

Spoilers for Interstellar are ahead.


The fact that it was directed by the famous director Christopher Nolan, written in collaboration with his brother Jonathan Nolan, was in and of itself a quite valid reason to put in the effort of stepping outside the warmth of my cozy dorm room into the starting winter on a rather tedious trek towards AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco. I thought Nolan deserved better respect than Berkeley’s shame of a theater.

Out of laziness and to a certain extent due to the surprising heat of the day against the thick wool sweater I chose for the outing, I took the AC Transit bus number 51B from the South side of UC Berkeley’s campus where I live to where the Bart station is – in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. As I got off the bus, the cooler wind of the downtown area greeted me to my relief. I crossed the street and escalated down into the dark gloominess of the Bart station. The habitual route to San Francisco’s Powell station was, well, a habitual one with not much of anything except for the reek of weed and the coming and going of people – all too ordinary to be true.

Before I even fully realized, I was settled in seat J22 of the main IMAX Theater, and the movie began right away without any movie trailers to waste my time.


*head nod

Wait, whoa...


Whoa, wait…





no… fucking… way…


So basically, this was the gist of my movie experience. All IMDb had informed me about this film prior to watching it was a sad – “A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.” Um, excuse me. No justice served.

Although the movie greets its massive audience of Inception fans with a rather slow start to its epic survivalist journey, Interstellar delivers a profound masterpiece. It was one of the most exhilarating film experiences I had personally encountered this century – not that I’ve lived through all of it.

Contrary to Inception which bases its whole plot on a somewhat blatant fabrication of dreaming consciousness and, therefore, lacks depth in meaning, Interstellar takes on a more scientifically accurate approach to a master narrative of black holes, relativity, singularity, and fifth dimension. Following along the latest movie trend of an apocalypse, Interstellar begins with the approach of world – more precisely Earth – destruction. The story plot illustrates the real world’s fear – the Great Depression has returned and with it the harrowing dust storms. The blight of not just potatoes but of all crops, all food, is reducing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, raising nitrogen levels and making Earth less and less habitable with time. All seems to be lost on Earth, so mankind turns to outer space as refuge with no other choice. 

With the help of his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain), Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles upon an undisclosed underground NASA outpost run by Cooper’s former mentor Professor Brand (Michael Caine). An accomplished pilot, Cooper is recruited by Professor Brand to be the commander of a top-secret mission to retrace the flights of other astronauts sent to three different planets, each thought to have the potential of sustaining human life. Assisted by Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and a witty talking robot TARS (Bill Irwin) Cooper leaves his own beloved daughter Murph behind on a desperate journey to save humanity from extinction. 

In order to narrow the impossible distance between Earth and the other planets, Cooper and Amelia travel through a wormhole near Saturn, a shortcut tunnel through space and time that allows them to leave the galaxy in the time span of a human life’s existence. While Cooper is in space, time zips past back on Earth – his son is a father to a family, Murph an astute scientist working under Professor Brand, and his father-in-law (John Lithgow) has passed away from old age – even though a single year has not even passed for Cooper. Like Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Inception, Cooper longs to return to his family but pushes on. Cooper’s internal urgency clashes with Amelia’s desire to be reunited with her lover, one of the astronauts on the earlier mission. This theme of love is incorporated back into the final scene and the overall message of the film - the belief that not only gravity but love is an incomprehensible power that holds galaxies together.

With the theme of love, it can be quite difficult to steer clear of clichés. Hollywood movies about romantic love or about sex bombard the box office, and serious movie lovers often find movies with this obvious theme of love too dull and repetitive. Interstellar is worth giving its 170 minutes – almost three hours – full attention because it approaches love from an unfamiliar perspective. 

Interstellar does not portray a single couple – none of the lovey-dovey romance. Instead, there are more attenuated but at the same time more heartwarming kinds of love: a grandfather’s love for his son and his grandchildren, the children’s love for their father in a world without their mother, and later the angry love of abandoned Murph who loves but rages at Cooper for leaving her, as well as the love of Amelia for her lover where even “the tiniest possibility of seeing [him] again excites [her]” after a decade long separation. There is also an even more broader, all-transcending love humans have for their own existence. Nolan wanted to depict the "magnetic force", similar to that of gravity, of these kinds of love. As Amelia tells us, “Love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful, it has to mean something... Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space."

I will end here, omitting any commentary about the black hole of fifth dimension to show some respect to those who have yet to watch this incredible film, in which case you should immediately.

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  1. Some say the movie was dull and archaic... but I think it was in many ways, new. What amazed me (along with that magical image of a black hole, of course) was Nolan's approach to make a point about love that was somehow not artificial. Interesting movie, interesting article.