Spoiler Warning: Do not read if you have not seen or do not want spoilers
Since the release of The Dark Knight, a Christopher Nolan film has become a major event. You can guarantee that whether it’s loved or despised (make no mistakes, there are those that despise!) it will be a talking point and be huge: Interstellar continues in this vein. At the expense of spoilers, the film covers themes of who we are as humans, where we are heading, how we can get there and the existence of what Nietzsche called the ‘Übermensch’ although ultimately the recurring theme is the father/daughter bond.
Set in the near future where corn is the only surviving food source, a chain of events sees corn farmer Coop (Matthew McConaughey) finding the now secretive and underground organisation who are set on finding a new home due to the earth effectively dying. Following in the footsteps of twelve forerunners (sent to test twelve different planets for their suitability) Coop is shot into outer space with consequences on both sides of his journey.
The film’s first half is dedicated to Coop’s relationship with his daughter with the clumsily-explained-after-Murphy’s-Law Murph Cooper (played at this point by the absolutely wonderful Mackenzie Foy). Whilst Coop’s son is shown and clearly given a voice, the films interest is so clearly that of his daughter. The construct of the relationship invokes Spielberg – who was attached to direct an early, now leaked, draft of the script. Given Spielberg’s overt fascination of absent Fathers (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T even Hook or Catch Me If You Can to name a few examples), it’s clear that the central scene in this section is Coop’s departure for outer space – played with utter perfection by Mackenzie Foy. The emotion that she musters to show her world being torn apart and turned upside-down ensures that not only that particular scene, but also it resonates throughout the film.
In a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like jump-cut (that will not be the last time it’ll be mentioned), we leave Coop’s farm and move directly into breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere and seeking into the search of the new place for humanity. Here we’re told that it is either find a new planet in time or grow new humans to ensure the race’s survival. We’re shown the spectacle of different planets and many different aspects of Kip Thorne’s scientific input and the concepts of wormholes, ideas of time and gravity. With all the ideas of grandiose and the fantastic plot and wonderfully intelligent concepts, we’re always brought back to the idea of Coop and his daughter. There are highly emotionally charged messages sent out to the ship – the Endurance – which provide beautiful moments into the insight of the now grown Murph (Jessica Chastain) and the effect of Coop’s leaving and the ever-present notion of Father/Daughter.
The second act sees the introduction of a HAL-like character (who feels like he was written for this sole purpose) that allows the transition into the third and most 2001 like section. In order to give a little context, the Übermensch comes from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Simplistically, the Übermensch refers to something higher than ordinary. Taking the idea of God out of the equation, the Übermensch will be his own god and judge of what is right and what needs to be done. The Übermensch is the next stage of the human evolution. This is where the third act comes in. There is a recurring idea of ‘they’ guiding people. ‘They’ put the wormhole there; ‘they’ guided Coop to space. This idea permeates through the film and so clearly invokes the Nietzschean concept – much like the overarching ‘Star Child’ in the closing frames of 2001.
This is not to say the film is an undeniable flawless classic. The story can plod, the dialogue and scientific explanations are over-simplistic in places and (much like The Dark Knight Rises, there are plot holes that you could drive the Endurance space ship through. However, there is so much going on during the film, it is utterly exhilarating to watch and the longer it runs, the more you can figure the iconography and messages within. The operation that Coop is sent into space on is the operation Lazarus and with there being twelve forerunners is arguably significant (twelve directions on a clock, twelve disciples). There is also an idea of being chosen put into the film. This is all layered into the film and only the very few films have this depth. For this it is utterly forgivable to have unexplainable moments or slightly hokey dialogue.
Another collaboration between Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer gives similar recurring musical themes – this time using the sound of a ticking clock as its basis rather than La Vie En Rose as with Inception. The score and use of sound is well used and again, invokes 2001 with the idea that no sound travels through space thus, any sound made is unheard.
On the whole, the film is open to these ideas, moving forward, it will be no surprise to see the film studied and mentioned in the same breath as the likes of 2001, Close Encounters. To be pulled apart and analysed on any level. Whether this was the ever-secretive Nolan’s intention, who knows? Given the shooting title of Flora’s Letter (Flora being Nolan’s daughter) the Father/Daughter dynamic resonates particularly close to home.
Whilst it is clear that the film is not perfect, it explores, space, time, gravity and who we are – lack of ambition is not its problem. Nolan has again provided wonderful fodder for debate, opinion and created a film which will last throughout space and indeed, time.