Interstellar is a Christopher Nolan film, so we can all assume it will be well acted, written and directed. So instead I’m going to focus on the other aspects of Interstellar that make it possibly the science fiction movie of the decade. I’ve made sure the below is completely spoiler free, so don’t worry about reading if you haven’t seen the film yet.
Most science fiction films now made depict the iPad version of the future, where everything is clean and the aesthetics minimalist. Here everything is dirty, second hand and clearly well used. In-story this works as the world has suffered an ecological disaster and humanity is throwing all of its resources into feeding itself. The benefit to the audience is that dirty beaten up things look real.
The world we live in is rarely completely clean and almost everything looks a little worn down. So when we see perfectly clean worlds on the screen we can appreciate their beauty but cannot believe in them as they are too far removed from what we see everyday. In Interstellar there are pretty much no objects or rooms free of the general dust, dirt and clutter that real life breeds. This means that instead of admiring how pretty the set is we just believe that this place actually exists, giving the audience the gift of complete suspension of disbelief.
Interstellar has a terrible beauty
At one point a character refers to a landscape as “stark and beautiful”. This could be said of the entire film. Even before we leave earth the dust storms are shown as violent and destructive but not without their own cinematic grandeur. Then we hit space and Nolan really comes into his own. From the moment the plot leaves earth the camera struggles to contain the sheer scale of Nolan’s vision. Much of the scenery is beautiful and at the same time terrifying. This creates an interesting dynamic for the audience as they are simultaneously in awe of what they are seeing and filled with dread on behalf of the characters, who are small and powerless in comparison.
For a film that constantly shows the audience sweeping vistas, Interstellar is very claustrophobic. Throughout the film the actors are forced into such close proximity to each other that the only outcome is discomfort both for themselves and the audience. Nolan both foreshadows and subverts every expected twist at some point, putting the audience on uncertain ground throughout the film. Interstellar also relies heavily on subtlety and playing with the audience’s preconceptions to produce tension, which will leave you on tenterhooks throughout.
Oh the humanity!
As has been well publicised, Interstellar takes place in a future where the world has suffered ecological disaster. This doesn’t actually impinge too much on the film and there is no overt environmental parable in the movie. Interstellar instead accepts humanities strengths and weaknesses without judgment, letting each very human decision drive the plot forward naturally. Even in the most demanding and unusual of circumstances none of the characters act in a way that is not understandable to the audience, which serves to ground a film which otherwise could have been broken by its massive scale.
One aspect of the film that has been under-discussed is its take on what makes humanity ‘special’. Interstellar invites the audience to consider what being human means without presenting any answers. Is it love? The survival instinct? The ability to think for yourself? I would be happy to delve more into this, but I would hate to give anything away about the film itself.
If you haven’t seen Interstellar, or want to see it again, try amazon.
If you liked this then check out all of Stranger View’s Movie stuff or our science fiction section. Fans of Interstellar may also be interested in the Stranger Views book reviews in the classic science fiction section.