*SPOILERS FOR INTERSTELLAR*
I didn’t know what to say about Interstellar. Or rather, I didn’t want to say anything. I hate talking about movies immediately after being impacted by them. People always want to point out some flub they saw in the logic or the set, and I just don’t care about that. I care about what I felt (or didn’t), and that isn’t always something that I want to have to defend in the harsh light of others’ judgment. So I just didn’t say anything.
But then I saw these pictures this morning.
Specifically the pictures of cities. Mexico City looks like a nebula, not like clusters of cement and glass. Tokyo looks like Tokyo, and I am floored by the fact that someone could conceivably have been up there, looking down through a lens, as lonely as I was, when I’d huddle in the huge glass window of my guesthouse at dawn, cradling a cup of coffee and watching those thin silver blips streak across the sky, imagining them as people-bearing objects, not just faceless satellites. Longing for their company.
And dawn over the Eastern seaboard, the astronaut’s heart twisting into a lump at sunrise hurtling across DC and New York and the Great Lakes–the same dawn I saw rise just weeks ago, from a plane caught in a bit of turbulence, with none of the terror I felt in the turbulence over the desert because these places, at least, I knew–these mountains, that sea; if we went down it would not be into strangeness.
That strangeness paces through Interstellar, glowering and lashing its tail. “I am all you get,” that water planet says. One wall of death after the other, ad infinitum. Or, “ha, you like breathing? I hope you have good memories of it, because you don’t get to do that anymore.” Like shriveling up and dying in the desert but worse–no one will look down on you from above and take the picture of the beautiful land you died in.
What should have been the height of strangeness, though–the tesseract, or the library of babel, call it what you wish–rang instead as a perfect fit. Like seeing everything click into place in Inception, when we bounce back up through the layers of dream and see all the plans and plots falling into sudden, scintillating clarity. I loved that. It was as though someone else shared my fascination with the ellimist from a now-forgotten morbid 90s YA series and borrowed his worldview. Worldsview. But instead of trying to impose this otherworldly disinterest on us–instead of trying to make us share in a grandiosity of knowledge and impartiality we couldn’t possibly achieve–we are instead invited to wrench our very human heartstrings as hard as possible. Cooper screaming at his unhearing daughter not to let him leave is probably the most difficult scene I’ve had to watch in a long time. Yes, even accounting for my readily-confessed helplessness before father-daughter scenes that aren’t about some sexy little thing whose womanly virtues the father feels he has to safeguard with a blunt object, but about a frustrated bookish female in oversized t-shirts who doesn’t really feel like she fits into the environment she’s supposed to and whose father totally has faith that she’ll get to where she does fit, and will excel there. *cough* Even accounting for that pronounced soft-heartedness, that was still a terrible, perfect scene. Because he has held it together so far, trying not to die, trying not to let others die, trying to let there be some future out there, but then when he thinks he has the chance to stop, not the end of mankind, but the parting from his daughter, he screams and hammers to make it happen. And it doesn’t.
I suppose a criticism you could level at the film is the lack of much concern for, or connection with, the son. But–again I freely confess this–as my parents grow more miserable, my chances to see them fewer, my patience for people whose love for their families is perfunctory wanes. The son will name his kid after his dad, sure, but not the first kid, and he doesn’t have much faith that his dad is coming back, or ever intended to. That’s as perfunctory, as piecemeal, as the love I see spewed out across Facebook–gooey birthday messages and plasticized selfies, sure, but where are you when your mom wants to talk about dying in the early morning? Where is your camera when she doesn’t look like some photo-ready MILF for your newsfeed, but instead like the mom you grew up with? Why does she have to mail you coupons from local athletic stores to make you come visit?
Ahem. As I was saying, I may have a pronounced weakness to the portrayal of certain relationships…and a surly disregard for others.
That hand-nuzzle at the end undid me. That is exactly what I fucking told you I hate about space, I thought furiously through my tears. That is exactly what happens. And it’s terrible.
And continually choosing people for dangerous missions based on the little they have to lose, the few ties they have, the minimal number of people who will be affected by their potential disappearance…might not be the wisest decision. They might not look down on all those people in their cities that look like nebulae and think, “they are mine.” When they need to.