Interstellar: A Tale for Every Human
Space can bend and time can halt, but love is the only thing that can transcend the dimensions of the universe. Such is the idea that propels Christopher Nolan’s latest film. Nolan has once again proved his talents, as Interstellar entraps viewers with its stunning characterization and setting, then transports them to the fifth dimension only to leave them there in a mental and emotional circus. The grip that the film holds on its audience is one that spans every dimension of the human creature: mind, heart and body.
The science of Interstellar is convincing. Due to its theoretical nature, as with any science fiction film, there are probable holes. One such issue is human survivability in the freezing temperatures of empty space, which poses a few realism problems in this film (but really, what Sci-Fi film doesn’t). Still, the verisimilitude of the film as a whole is what makes the film so gripping. Nolan is an expert in giving the audience just enough explanation to help them understand, but not enough to insult their intelligence; he expects us to think through the concepts for ourselves.
Space-time has been a popular topic in science fiction movies, but Interstellar makes the right decision to keep it realistic. I’m an advocate for shying away from spoilers, so I will not go into detail concerning how the film uses this concept, but what I will say is that this one element is what drives the whole film forward; for this reason alone, go see it!
The futuristic film, whose date is never given--a brilliant move on Nolan’s part, is a somber one. Yet it's a rich sort of somber that is bountiful with opportunities for intellectual exercise and moral musings. The moral problems of the world are not at the forefront, but they do shape the characters and setting. For instance, the choice between loved ones and the fate of humanity (or, “selfish love vs. obligation,” as I’d call it) is a major dilemma in the film, and it appears on numerous fronts. The tension between evil and good is also an issue raised, and even though it has a subtle role, it has the same impact as a drop of red dye has in clear water.
The emotional output in this intergalactic tale is immense. Some deep part in us is poked, loosened, then left to drift in limbo until the various emotional rifts have been resolved. The story focuses on one family, particularly the father, (played by Matthew McConaughey) and his “fortunately unfortunate” journey into space. This aspect alone is enough to amp the emotions, but when relationships and space-time are forced to coexist in the lives of the characters, Interstellar raises the emotional bar immensely.
McConaughey ought to win an award for his role in this film. Without his ability to slip us under his skin and let us experience the story, the film would have lost its personable connection with the audience. Being the protagonist, he wears his desires and personality like a worn-out work jacket, full of character, history and depth. He makes this film go from A to A+. If the film were a cake, he is not only the cherry on top but the whipped cream as well!
Despite the grandeur of space and intergalactic travel, the “ordinary” theme of love is what hits home for many viewers. As I mentioned above, relationships in the film provide the perfect catalyst for emotions. In the film, the theme of love is subtle, only slightly expressed, but its fingerprints are everywhere. Love, arguably the deepest drive of humanity, is seen as the only element in the universe that can’t bend with distance of time, space or dimension. Love is universal in the most literal sense of the word: it spans the universe unrestrained.
Our minds and hearts are not the only parts of us that get taken through the wormhole. The film did an excellent job of bringing the story to life, and by making our physical bodies feel it. Our eyes and eardrums transform the audiovisual media into a heart-wrenching experience that pulls us in like gravity. If you can’t feel your chest tighten or eyes water, a film has failed to deliver its most potent weapon. Interstellar doesn’t need to be in 3D to reach out and grab your physical body with the physiological tolls of space, time and emotion.
The visual effects make viewers feel like they are actually in the spacecraft as it slides through the wormhole, or on earth when the sandstorms stroll in; we can feel the g-forces and we can taste the dust. We can feel the characters’ anxiety before going into hypersleep for many months. We can feel the aloneness of space, where billions of miles lie between us and our home.
To top it off, Hans Zimmer composes music that clicks into the film so well that it’s felt, but still hardly noticed. The notes, instruments, crescendos and melodies aid the film’s grip on its audience. Simply listening to the music with closed eyes is enough to feel like one is in the story. The emotional gamut that Interstellar has to offer is met with an equally colorful array of musical spells, and each piece of music in the film matches the emotions of the story flawlessly.
Conclusion: A Human Tale
If I stare at the stars long enough, fear begins to creep in. Yet the stars that I see are only a glimpse of the universe’s enormity! Such enormity makes it impossible to not contemplate the finiteness of our little humanity. The Earth is infinitesimal, and yet this tiny spec is precious beyond measure to us. This is our home; it’s where we were born and where we find purpose.
Interstellar is not a film about science, space or civilization. It’s a film about humans and what makes them precious and valuable. Humanity will always strive to survive, and if our world is in peril, sustaining ourselves will become our purpose--this is a key aspect to this film. If, however, survival begs us to sacrifice love, humans will always be prone to choose love. Our value may include the noble purposes of survival, expansion and sustainability, but it ultimately boils down to our ability to love. Love is the only element in the universe that finds its home within humanity, and it is also the only element that is able to span every dimension. Humans are thus gifted with the most potent, omnipresent substance of all. This fact alone points to the power and transcendence of love, as if its from another universe altogether:
“We love because [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:11)
"We must confront the reality that nothing in our solar system can help us." --Professor Brand, Interstellar
Every human should watch Interstellar because it reminds us to cherish what makes life such a gift. It reminds us that time will always be unstoppable, which ought to motive us to make the best use of it (Eph. 5:15-16; Col. 4:5). It reminds us that the choices we make every day can never be undone. Interstellar nudges us towards a better world where love takes the forefront, and where conflict is seen as a thing of the past. It’s a world where the Golden Rule governs the human heart and where we can finally be who we were meant to be.