My son and I went to watch the movie Interstellar last Friday, which was Father’s Day in Thailand and a national holiday. It was a long movie, full three hours. I had to admit that I fell asleep a little toward the middle part of the movie when they were going on the interstellar flight. The movie has received some negative reviews lately, and I can understand why. It’s long and lacks the drama that keep people on the edge of their seat. And there is no romantic tension between the main actor and actress. The main relationship in the movie is between the father and his daughter, not the kind of relationship that fills up theaters. But with all those negative reviews I think the movie does contain some positive aspects.

An alien world.
An alient world.

One thing is that it makes use of a lot of scientific knowledge of space flight. You see, there is no air in space. Air conducts sound waves, so no air, no sound. There is a scene where a guy tries to run his ship into a space station, causing an explosion. Once the explosion is on the sound suddenly goes out. It is a dramatic contrast. We expect there to be a loud sound coming with the explosion, but instead of a loud bang, we get a sudden silence instead. It is a kind of explosion in reverse.

Another thing is that the movie plays with the concept of time a lot. According to the Theory of Relativity, if you are moving very, very fast compared to those who are stationary, the watch on your hand will move more slowly than the watch on those who are at rest. The faster you move, the more slowly your watch run. So the father who travels to another galaxy in the end remains a relatively young guy whereas his daughter, whom he met toward the end, is very, very old.

But what makes a movie a good one is not that it correctly follow scientific knowledge. It’s the dramatic content that counts. The core of the movie revolves around the father and his daughter, whom we see her entire age, from a young girl when the movie opens to a very old lady surrounded by her children and grandchildren at the end. And there is this play on the concept of time again. Apart from clocks moving more slowly, we are also presented with the idea that time itself could be laid bare as if it were some kind of width of a material thing. That is, we tend to think of time as moving inexorably forward, with no turning back. But the movie shows us another possibility where all the scenes that we experience in time are all laid bare for us all at the same time. It is as if all the scenes of our lives are laid down together. If our lives are recorded in a film, then we can cut all the frames and lay them down together so that we can have a look at all the scenes of our lives happening all at the same time. That’s the idea I am talking about. Somehow the father got into this higher dimension where all the scenes are laid out like this, and he tries to communicate with his 10-year-old daughter while in fact she is past her thirties just a few moments before.

But still we need to talk about the dramatic content. Well, there is little I can talk about that. There is no conflict that reaches a climax and resolves itself as the movie winds down. Instead we have an ongoing movie that goes on and on, just as life. Perhaps that is the intention of the screenplay writer and the director. Movie should imitate life. As life goes on and on, so should the movie. Now we are back to talking about time again. So if I am to summarize this movie in only one word, I would say that it is about time…


2 thoughts on “Interstellar

  1. Ken Herold (@KenHerold) December 8, 2014 / 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the posting Soraj. I very much enjoyed the film while going into it expecting to be disappointed. Most of my scientist twitter following led me to be a cautious viewer. Anyway, to get to the heart of it for me, I focus on the time element from a first person perspective of experience. We know from recent research that we re-write our memories and that imagination and memory like are a moebius strip turing tape or a klein bottle version of an hourglass of consciousness. I know I am leaving myself messages for the future and often forget I have done so–maybe this is an illusion of how I keep rediscovering my “self” in orientation to the “world.” Now that we are onlife together we share these memories and create the extra-dimensional perspective, as you say, slices and frames all spread out. It seems we can enrich this infosphere and speak directly heart to heart across continents and decades before we slip ourselves into transmigrating bags and sleep again.

  2. soraj December 9, 2014 / 10:23 am

    Hi Ken, thanks a lot for your comments. What is interesting is the possibility of traveling backward in time. But then very strange things happen.

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