Beware, this post is rife with spoilers.
“The Bolt Beings are closing the Tesseract!”, warns TARS as Coop finally figures out how/what/why he is in the Tesseract in the first place. The reference to the Tesseract got me really excited, and not just because it’s one of my favorite bands (ha ha), but because it was my first introduction to begin to be able to fathom a higher dimension. It took me back to Carl Sagan’s soothing yet captivating voice in one of his original Cosmos episodes where he, patiently, explains different dimensions, Flatland style. This part of the film, the third act (or in Nolan terms, the Prestige), is the make or break part of the film. This separates the people who are absolutely going to be blown away by the film from the ones who will cringe at this representation of the inner workings of a Black Hole beyond the Event Horizon.
The third act was my favorite part of the film. To be honest, when he enters the Tesseract I actually went ‘Oh, come ON!’ in disbelief and disappointment. But, giving Nolan the benefit of the doubt, I wanted to wait. And I’m glad I did, because, this is the part where they had all the liberties with the science stuff. Because, as Romley puts it, no one knows what’s inside a Black Hole. And, in my opinion, they did a beautiful fucking job with representing it. They, obviously, could have done much more and explored that unknown more. But that could have bordered to the complete extremities of the unknown and could have very easily turned into some pseudo-scientific psychedelic pedantic mumbo jumbo. Also, this was akin to the representation of the ‘higher beings’ in Contact who communicate with Jodie Foster through a vision of her dead father. And, hey, if Carl Sagan is cool with that representation, then it’s more than good enough for me. Although I don’t agree with him, after the screening, my boss put it quite funnily. He said “It was really nice how they tied it all together in the end and explained the story, even though it was SO fucking stupid”. That really cracked me up.
Throughout my childhood, my parents (especially my mother) slyly inception-ed me into falling in love with astronomy. I didn’t grow up on a diet of Goosebumps, Eragon and Harry Potter. I was fed heavy doses of astrophysics and space exploration encyclopedias, of which I understood absolutely nothing. But, my parents succeeded, since the first book I ever purchased out of my own will was “Can You Hear a Shout in Space?”, a lovely little book answering a lot of FAQ’s on space travel. I was set to become an astronaut. Dominic Cobb aint got nothing on my mom. That is, until a sad afternoon in February 2003. The Columbia Space Shuttle had burnt up and disintegrated on re-entry and the world lost seven heroes. My mom walked into my room where I was probably building the nth spaceship with legos, and gave me a sad shake of the head. “Not happening bro”, she said (I’m paraphrasing). My interests dramatically shifted after that, and Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll happened (minus the sex and drugs, I was 11 for crying out loud!). I started playing music, since my mom had a guitar lying…. Holy shit this woman has pretty much manipulated me into who I am. I need to have a serious talk with her. Astronomy took a back seat, now it was about barely passing exams and playing music. That is, until my last two years of high school where my Higher Level Physics optional topic was Astrophysics. And to date, that and Literature have been the only two courses I have ever given a fuck about. It instilled the same sense of wonder in me, that I would have staring into the storm of Jupiter in one of those encyclopedias as an 8 year old. I wanted to do something; I wanted to excel at this one thing, to have a purpose to at least doing ONE of my IB courses with any real conviction. And I did, I scored a perfect 7/7 on that paper. That also triggered me into undertaking one of the dumbest decisions of my life, studying Aerospace Engineering at university.
Astrophysics you idiot! Not Engineering! That’s what you should’ve done! Ask me why? Because I figured, to be practical and to be ‘financially stable’, engineering would be the way to go. And hey, it’s Aerospace, so it’s kind of related right? What an idiot. Here I am, five years later, still degree-less, a lot more cynical, and giving up all hopes of ever making any money, by deciding to become a filmmaker. Maybe this is the bolt beings punishing me for not dreaming anymore.
This is why Interstellar is such an important film. I never, ever, ever, cry watching films. But I managed to shed a few solitary tears while watching Interstellar. Not because of the emotional high points of the film (which Nolan has beautifully crafted), but because of an inexplicable feeling of being overwhelmed by everything. “This is my childhood! Why did you take it away from me!” I wanted to yell out at imaginary villains. When the truth is that the villain is inside me. I was the one that started chasing after green eyed girls, rather than asking someone in my Calculus class “But how are infinity plus seven and infinity equal? Yeh kya hai???”. I was the one that stopped living a normal human life after a terrible heartbreak and locked myself in a room with a laptop and a high speed internet connection and just watched film after film after film. I forgot what the Tsiokolvsy’s rocket equation was, I forgot why we need to add a J2 perturbation to some orbital equations, or even what the names of the crew members of Apollo 14 were. And I am absolutely not alone in this. There are countless versions of myself all over the world, and especially in India, who are conveniently shoved into boxes of engineering/medicine/law at a very young age. Financial security and ‘respectable job’ take precedence over talent and wonder. I know it’s too late for me now, but why can’t we let the newer generations dream a little more? Just a little more, before we bolt and rivet them into mechanical versions of themselves, set to serve one giant master. One giant wheel to be a cog in. All of my heroes from the space exploration world were from the 60’s/70’s. None from the 80’s.90’s or 2000’s. That is fucking sad. Who am I left to be inspired by? Someone who’s contribution to the world is measured by what his/her net worth is? Fuck. That. I refuse. I’d rather look up to a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan, who creates, even if fictional, worlds and stories that expand minds and inspire the glint of wonder behind our stone set eyes.
The film does not come without its flaws, of course. But what it left me with is much bigger than any miniscule anal thought I had during the film (“Heh, nice impact toughness on the ceramics of that ranger, am I right?” *wink wink*). The film is much, much bigger than the sum of its parts. And it has a LOT of delectable parts. Watch it, and be inspired. Let it talk to the ethereal child in you.
It’s time to stop fearing the unknown. It’s time to embrace the fact that it’s much more wondrous to NOT know, than to create a meaning that is convenient for us. Such is the beauty of science, it doesn’t judge. And it does not require you to believe in a certain god or be of a certain color or caste. It just requires you to question everything, especially what science itself brings forth. And it’s inclusive. You don’t have to be a genius. If I can be adequately interested in it and understand it, anyone can.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of the greatest human beings that ever lived. Find out who it is, if you don’t know already.
“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
(Haider Hussain Beig is a 23 year-old filmmaker based out of Netherlands. When he’s not alienating close friends with painful film gyaan, he dabbles in Aerospace Engineering. You can check out his stuff here)