Interacting with Interstellar?

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Conversation /
November 17, 2014 /

Click here to view original /

A friend had made a self-deprecating comment about not being “cut”.

“What?“ I said, incredulously. “You are cut.”

“You think I’m cut?” he said, grinning far too widely.

“I know you’re bloody cut.”

A bizarre back and forth transpired for more minutes than was sane. The wash-up – fortunately happening before I had to bully him into a reveal – was that in his world “cut” meant muscularity, and in mine it was all about circumcision.

(Or being hurt, as illustrated by my all-time favourite numberplate once spotted in the Broadmeadows Shopping Centre carpark: YBCUT4).

Watching Interstellar was kinda like that conversation.

Sure, there were some trivial things that befuddled me. Like how I was supposed to believe that either Matthew McConaughey or Anne Hathaway were really astronauts.

Then there was the thorough incongruity of McConaughey’s dialogue which largely consisted of liberal use of his daughter’s name. While talking to her. As though he were starring in the world’s worst play.

“You have to talk to me, Murph. We need to fix this before I go.”

“Murph, I love you, forever.”

“This thing needs to learn how to adapt, Murph. Like the rest of us.”

We get it. The filmmakers thought Murph – from Murphy’s Law – was an excellent, pithy name for a kid. So excellent in fact, that they kept patting themselves on the back and adding it to each line of dialogue.

But, in the scheme of things, such criticisms seem trivial. The bigger problem centered on a plot that didn’t make a lick of sense.

Working out a) how much of this centred on my intellectual shortcomings or on flaws in the storytelling and b) whether any of this really mattered, helped keep me busy during those beautifully scored but arduous 169 minutes.

I spoke to Dad on the phone last night. He mentioned that my cousin had just visited the Space Centre at my old high school.

I replied that had that damn thing been open when I was there, my grasp and interest in science would have been completely overhauled.

He, rightly, didn’t sound convinced.

Whether the lack of wide-eyed access I had to a Space Centre is the problem or not, the reality is I don’t understand science. I don’t get, for example, why Pluto got dumped from the line-up. Or how a camera works, even after being told a thousand times. Or the whys of oxidisation of fruit or make-up.

Or what a bloody wormhole is! (Even with Interstellar’s oh so informative explanation involving a piece of paper stabbed with a pen).

And – central to Interstellar’s plot – I don’t understand how for Cooper (McConaughey) and Brand (Hathaway), each hour of their space walk constituted 12 years for everyone on earth (and for that poor bearded black guy left in the rocket).

I don’t understand.

And, oddly, even at nearly three hours, I didn’t actually hate the film. In fact, it took me back to seeing Mullholland Dr. Not once, but twice, in a multiplex in Antwerp. I had no idea what was going on during either viewing – years on, I still don’t – but there was something eminently watchable there.

David Lynch makes crazy, beautiful films.

Interstellar, akin to last year’s passable-but-overrated Gravity, are both quite watchable. It’s not like I understood either but there was something visually captivating in both.

In the case of Interstellar sure, it’s down to Christopher Nolan’s ability to create entire – and, more importantly, plausible – whole worlds for the audience. Equally, a good part of it’s attributable to Jessica Chastain – the adult Murph – who is consistently captivating on screen. (And who starred, incidentally, in the fantastic The Debt, which got nowhere near the attention it should have).

Interstellar’s not a bad film. It’s a film however, that makes that standard Oscar-ravenous mistake of believing that running time, convoluted storylines, gravitas and shiny accolades are inseparable.

© Lauren Rosewarne