Oct 27, 2014


From my review of Interstellar for Intelligent Life:
'The great magician of cinema is said to have nothing up his sleeve once the trick is unraveled, but both Memento and Inception, once you exhausted their ingenuity, summoned a melancholy worthy of Methuselah. The idea of losing yourself in a dream for fifty years, as Leonardo di Caprio did in Inception, was both awe-inspiring and terrifying, even if Nolan’s fans sometimes give every impression of wishing it physically possible. The emotion sprung by McConaughey when he hears how long he has been away is one I have never encountered in a film before: an entirely new compound of grief, loss, longing and terror at Time’s immensity. I’ve seen it addressed by poets but not $200 million blockbuster moviemakers. Nolan would appear to be the wild offspring Cecil B De Mille and John Donne. The poet who wrote Paradoxes and Problems and who once imagined in “one little room an everywherewould surely have thrilled to Interstellar’s visions of galaxies bent and refracted, as if in a drop of water, by the space-time curvature around a worm-hole. There’s a mesmerizing plainness to the film’s images — they hit you right between the eyes.  In every battle between truth and beauty, you feel, truth won out, and yet the results have a beauty of their own, like that of Higher Mathematics. The blur of light around the circumference of a black hole has the elegance of a Gerhard Richter painting. Many great directors have ventured here and foundered. Robert Zemeckis went into a worm-hole in Contact, which was also based on the work of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, and came back with a vision of a sparkling, astral beach on which Jodie Foster could face her daddy issues. Not even Kubrick could come up with a convincing human drama to match his stunning visuals: 2001 was simply too big for human agency or narrative — his most memorable character was a homicidal robot. But Nolan has thought through his moral universe.  Up here, time is as much of a resource as space and fuel, a fact with radical implications for human behavior and motivation.  In an ordinary Hollywood movie, the desire to see your daughter and the desire to save the planet would be one and the same. But what if you had to choose? Nolan uses relativity to drive a stake right through the heart of evolutionary theory: what if one man, protecting his nest, doomed the species? Hey, an Einstein vs Darwin death match!  Who expected that in the blockbuster hit of the season?' 

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