(Image from avforums.com)
I am, quite obviously, not Neil deGrasse Tyson or Chris Hadfield. I’m not a physical sciences major, or even a huge sci-fi person for that matter. And for those sins, I apologize. Academically, my physics knowledge fails to extend past high school— to be precise, I am quite certain that I missed 99.98% of grade 12 physics. Although I would like to think that I could fabricate an eloquent soliloquy on my intimate thoughts about Interstellar’s artistic execution of theoretical relativity and the very spiritual nature of the fifth dimension, I would be deceiving myself. Frankly, I was perpetually attempting not to drown in the sea of physics jargon. I managed to stay afloat because I could, at least, follow along with the bigger picture.
The film attempts to reconcile the audience’s incongruent levels of physics knowledge by explaining each scientific concept along the way, but still I found myself fumbling from theory to theory. And so I found it difficult to be wholly absorbed by Interstellar because I was desperately trying to figure out the feasibility of the science while simultaneously endeavouring to appreciate the artistic direction of the film. That being said, I was very impressed with their conceptualization of a spherical black hole—though whether my fascination was due to the actual cleverness of the idea or to my utter unfamiliarity with physics, I do not know.
The imaginative facets of Interstellar were undeniably spectacular; the cinematography captured space beautifully and the manipulations of sound and silence were brilliant counterparts to the visual elements. Nods are worthily due to Matthew McConaughey who, as a man caught between space and time, made us feel just as torn, conflicted, and terrified.
To even begin to address the black holes and alternate galaxies, however, I had to request the assistance of my science major significant other. Here’s what he had to say about the film: “a perplexing juxtaposition of humanity’s minute existence with equally misunderstood physics concepts.” Although he was not as helpful on the science front as I had anticipated, he does make an apt observation about how infinitesimally small we are in the universe.
This led me to think that, perhaps then, we should think about Interstellar as a narrative that effectively makes us feel microscopic—not only through its manifestations of boundless expanses, but also because it makes us painfully aware of just how little we truly know about what the universe is like. We may be able to conjecture through mathematical equations, works of literature, or movies, and yet a literal and metaphorical gap inherently dwells between hypothetical constructs and the reality of existence itself. In the space between fact and fiction, then, is the perpetual wrestle between delineating the two and allowing the imaginary to filter through our consciousness as genuine, believable possibilities.
Interstellar did not transport me to another dimension. There were even times I felt myself slipping away from the film, but the confusion I felt during the most harrowing moments led me to ponder my finite life on the only earth we may ever know. And that’s pretty damn impressive.
(Image from avforums.com.)
For a more scientifically grounded analysis of Interstellar, see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s breakdown here: http://www.salon.com/2014/11/19/neil_degrasse_tyson_explain_the_science_behind_the_ending_of_interstellar/