Saturday, November 8, 2014

'Interstellar' (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan

Spaceships majestically floating around the galaxy to dramatic orchestral music is very much my kinda thing.  Bonus points if the music sounds suspiciously like Philip Glass' score for Koyaanisqatsi.  I cannot overemphasise how much I enjoy trippy cosmic science fiction that bursts at the seams with science so theoretical that it borders on the mystical.  The ur-example is, of course, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but more recent entries like Darren Aronosfky's The Fountain, Hideaki Anno's End of Evangelion or Ridley Scott's Prometheus keep blood pumping through the genre.

Other than the basic genre trappings of space, what gives Interstellar common ground with these films is the suturing of objectivity (as represented by science) to subjectivity (usually represented by the power of love).  The upshot is a weird, religious intensity that arises when cinema tries to pin down the point where science ends and faith begins.  This is usually signified by a balls out crazy psychedelic sequence full of flashing lights and crazy music, or as I call them 'the best bit'.

As far as I'm concerned the actual narrative of Interstellar takes a back seat to the imagery, music and philosophy of the movie, but it provides the backbone necessary to keep everything else ticking over, so here's the gist.  A hundred or so years from now Earth is a dying planet.  The crops humanity relies on to survive are systematically dying off, and the farmers are plagued by gigantic dust storms that smother the sky and choke up the lungs. 

But NASA has a plan.  The last, best hope of humanity is to go hermit crab: slough off the crummy old planet and find another.  So it's handy that a mysterious wormhole has opened just off Saturn, with a fresh solar system beyond ripe for the plucking.  A crew of explorers is assembled captained by Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), and they blast off into the void. 

Complicating matters is that Cooper has two young children who he must leave behind on earth.  Complicating matters even further is that relativity is mindmelting stuff, so time spent hanging out near black holes means that, for example, every hour is equivalent to eight years on Earth.  Complicating matters still further is a litany of betrayals and emotional chicanery that reveals what humanity is really like when its back is truly up against the wall.

And then things get weird. 

But enough about that science fiction frippery, Interstellar is really about fucking. More specifically, the film is a camouflaged guide to make men more attentive and responsible lovers.  Cooper might be narratively out to find a home for future generations of humanity, but symbolically he's out to give the cosmos the time of her life via mindblowing sex that concludes with simultaneous orgasms and fertilisation of her ovum.

The spacecraft is a stylised blastocyst
From wall to wall the film is covered in reproductive imagery; from the spermatozoa landing craft piloted by our hero to the fertilised egg shape of the base craft Endurance.  Then they have to fly their ship right into a gigantic space vagina and choose a suitably hospitable planet/egg to seed with the collective DNA of mankind.  Symbolism like this isn't novel or subtle, but where Interstellar stand out is its focus on the quality of the sex and the importance of choice of partner, rather than just the fact of its happening.

Nolan repeatedly emphasises that Cooper's skill in bed, and that he knows precisely how to satisfy a lover.  We repeatedly see him clutching a phallic spacecraft joystick, positioned neatly between his legs as he guides his spaceship through all kinds complex manoeuvres. His skills in manipulating his craft are thrown into sharp relief by a later example of an astronaut who is a bad lover.   

Go get 'em tiger.
In a tense scene we see the rape of a spacecraft, the unwilling docking ports hamhandedly bashed against to disastrous effect.  The sweaty, paranoid astronaut just wants to get himself off with no consideration as to the needs of his partner, something the film outright condemns as short-sighted selfishness.  By contrast Cooper is a sensitive lover, expertly matching the motions of the machine to the effect that it's port opens up like a petal and he can achieve penetration.  The sequence, one of the best in the movie, echoes Jodorowsky's 'Love Machine' in The Holy Mountain, the two movies overlapping in their tendency to show mankind transcending itself.

Soon after our hero is whirling through a psychedelic void making an unmistakable, gritted teeth O-face while caught up a flaming blast of intergalactic semen.  The cosmos has been well and truly satisfied and fertilisation has occurred.  Both Cooper and the universe then lie back on their pillows and share a celebratory cigarette. The film then folds in on itself to reveal the consequences of this; which serve to intensify the more obvious surface themes of parenthood and responsibility.

So in summary, with Interstellar Christopher Nolan gives us a lesson on how to be great in bed.  Namely that you need to tend to your partner's needs as much as your own, that selfishness in bed leads of misery (and the real significance of the spacecraft being named Endurance becomes apparent...) and, most importantly, if you end up with a child at the end of it all for god's sake do right by it.  More fundamentally, Nolan correctly recognises sexuality and eroticism as one of the basic behavioural building blocks of the human condition, something that should be wholeheartedly embraced if you desire happiness.

And he does all this while keeping a whizzy and tense space adventure story going. Whattaguy.  


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