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interstellar1,848 words

Note: Contains spoilers

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is an epic, metaphysical poem addressing the question of ultimate human survival in both an individual and collective sense. Like Inception, it uses a strong science-fiction narrative as a means of thinking about time and reality, but unlike Inception it looks outwards to distant galaxies rather than inwards to manipulated dream states. Certainly, Interstellar is Nolan’s most visionary film to date and, if much attention has been paid to the quantum physics that underpins the film, it is ultimately a meditation on what, if anything, lies behind the mundane dimensions of reality.

At the beginning of the film we meet Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who is an ex-astronaut turned farmer in the Midwest. The reason that he has turned to farming is a blight that is killing off food crops and causing dramatic food shortages. Scientific research and higher education have been shelved whilst everyone is pushed into farming to try to maximize the declining food supply. There is a residual technology; drones fly around to no purpose and we see one being hijacked by Cooper to salvage its technology. This is very much the sort of future envisioned by John Michael Greer in his book The Long Descent and his influential blog The Archdruid Report. Whereas Greer sees the end of the industrial age being caused by fossil fuel depletion, Interstellar less controversially puts it down to an act of nature. In both scenarios, technological development reaches a plateau and gradually fades into the past. Cooper’s young daughter, Murph, gets into trouble at school because she spreads a conspiracy theory that NASA once landed a man on the moon. What was once orthodoxy has become conspiracy theory, and vice versa, in a small but neat presentation of Spengler’s observation that strange, cultish religious imperatives arise at a time of civilizational death. In the world of Interstellar, the techno-Faustian drives of the 20th century have become a sinful heresy.

Murph believes that a ghost in her bedroom is trying to communicate with her by pushing books from her bookshelf. During one of the many severe dust storms that have become commonplace, she accidentally leaves a window open and she and Cooper notice that the dust falls to her bedroom floor in very particular, non-random ways. In fact, it lands as Morse code spelling out map coordinates. Cooper seeks to understand the anomalous incident and the “ghost” as gravitational phenomena of some sort. Upon tracking down the map coordinates they discover a secret NASA base. The space program has been forced to operate in complete secrecy because it is seen as a wasteful luxury that can no longer be afforded. Despite this, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) believes that interstellar colonization is the only hope for saving the human race from the blight. He reveals that a wormhole in space was discovered close to Saturn some years ago and that a number of manned missions were sent through it to investigate the suitability for colonization of planets on the other side. As Cooper is an ex-astronaut, and a heretic for believing in the desirability of space exploration despite the prevailing economic circumstances, he volunteers to pilot a new mission to follow up the data that has been sent back from those first pioneers.

The central bulk of the film follows the mission as it explores two of those worlds. The first is in close proximity to a black hole and the astronauts who explore its surface find it to be inhospitable. Due to the slowing down of time caused by the proximity of a black hole, the astronauts return after a couple of hours to find that 23 years have passed on the mother ship. Ultimately, Cooper decides that he needs to enter the black hole with one of the mission’s robots. This will enable the robot to send “quantum data” from the black hole’s singularity back to Earth to provide the missing piece of an equation that will solve the problem of gravity and allow for the mass emigration of humanity from Earth. Once inside the black hole, Cooper discovers a large projection, or light installation of some sort, representing his daughter’s childhood bedroom. Essentially, the projection is an embodiment of the bedroom’s instantiations in time when viewed from a higher dimension. By intersecting with this exteriorly manifested object of time, Cooper is able to distort space-time and cause the gravitational phenomena that Murph had originally attributed to the ghost at the beginning of the film. Cooper is thus causing the anomalous incidents that were responsible for him finding the NASA base and beginning his mission. It is also evident that the worm hole and the room within the black hole were created by a suprahumanity of the future who put them there to save the humanity of the past. Thus, Cooper’s personal temporal paradox is a small arc within a greater temporal paradox for all humanity.

All of this preoccupation with gravity and its effects inevitably brings to mind comparison with last year’s blockbuster space movie, Gravity. Gravity follows two astronauts who are left free floating in space after their shuttle is destroyed. Clooney and Bullock’s performances were highly rated and the film achieves a real frisson of terror as the characters are seen as lost, vulnerable specks against the immensity of space. But the interesting thing is how these characters are decontextualized, how they exist for us as severed from earthly concerns. True, Bullock’s character has a back story about her young daughter who died aged four, but this comes across as mere filler, a gestural procedure to humanize the character. Her biography is an anecdotal discourse. In essence, both of the characters are somehow less than human: rootless, single, atomized individuals. Surely we are meant to read them as angels, humanlike in form but strangely distant and ethereal? This reading is reinforced by the inclusion of the Hank Williams song “Angels are Hard to Find” in the soundtrack. The event that is responsible for destroying their shuttle, and leaving them hanging like Daliesque Christs in space, is a missile strike on a satellite which creates a chain reaction of debris orbiting through the satellite belt and taking out more satellites as it goes. This event is a quintessentially contemporary disaster. What could be worse than a devastating trail of destruction taking out communication satellites? As Clooney’s character remarks, “Half of North America just lost their Facebook.” This is the worst thing in the world and the true existential horror lying behind Gravity’s action. The lone astronaut spinning helplessly into infinite space is a metaphor for the contemporary experience of disorientation caused by internet downtime.

By contrast, Interstellar attempts to grapple with much bigger issues. The looming prospect of the death of all humanity is always present but, as already mentioned, this futuristic scenario plays out against a “lost futures” backdrop. It isn’t quite an archeofuturist vision because the technological advances that Faye anticipates have not come to fruition, so there is a sense of spiritual regression (accompanying the transition to an agrarian society), and a scavenging of extant technologies. In this context it is worth mentioning Kubrick’s 2001, which Interstellar has been compared to. Famously, HAL became the epitome of everything threatening about artificial intelligence. Due to his vastly superior intelligence and rationality he was given control of the spacecraft with consequences as bad for the crew as they were felicitous for cinema. The evil AI genius was also addressed more recently in the Nolan-produced Transcendence, where the notion of uploading a human’s consciousness to an online network was considered. In Interstellar, AI is shown to have become stuck in retro-looking robots who are basically very clever servants.

In place of the AI evil genius, Nolan instead has references to the mysterious intelligences who are responsible for the appearance of the worm hole: “they.” “They” are revealed to be a future form of humanity, one which has overcome the limitations of time (fifth-dimensional beings). It is surely worthy of note that, in this parable of the indomitability of the Faustian spirit, the higher beings are not aliens, gods or intelligent machines, but human beings. The messianic urge towards a savior figure, Nolan seems to be telling us, should be directed towards our own sense of self-overcoming, our own transcending of natural boundaries. But within all of this there is a very human story about a man who has to leave his daughter behind in pursuit of his ideals. Unlike the astronauts in Gravity we never forget that Cooper has made a real sacrifice in leaving his children behind to carry out this mission. When, at the end of the film, Cooper is reunited with Murph he has aged little, due to the slowing down of time in the area around the black hole where he has been exploring. She, however, is now an old lady on her death bed. When the two meet the father is decades younger than his dying daughter. Despite constituting the film’s emotional resolution the scene is uncomfortable to watch; it feels unnatural and a little creepy due to the age discrepancy. The effect is to make you wonder whether transcending time in this sense is really desirable. It is as though Nolan is subtly throwing in a warning about the consequences of exceeding natural boundaries to temper the Faustian message he sends elsewhere.

And the ambiguity doesn’t end there. This being Nolan, the consummate trickster, there has to be some doubt about the film’s ending. My understanding of physics is not at a very high level, but I believe that it is the case that nothing can escape from beyond the event horizon of a black hole. If this is so then when Cooper crosses the boundary that would be the last anyone would hear of him. Similarly, the “quantum data” would have no chance of being transmitted to Earth. In the film, we see Cooper reunited with his daughter on a space station in the Saturn region having been rescued from the black hole. One of the characters earlier in the film mentioned that the last thing you see before dying is your children. Perhaps we are meant to conclude that the end sequence is all psychological wish fulfillment on the part of a dying man. In which case humanity is stranded on a dying planet and we still don’t really know who “they” are. Perhaps it doesn’t matter; both scenarios are still concerned with man’s Gnostic quest for self-overcoming, and an ultimate resolution to such a quest will never be reached.

The genius of Christopher Nolan is in bringing so many interesting ideas to such entertaining films. With Interstellar he has demonstrated his competence as a metaphysical poet using scientific ideas as striking metaphors for human emotions and fears. It’s too ambitious to hang together perfectly but it is an extraordinary film that demands to be seen and seen again. Nolan’s eight previous films, spanning the period from 2000–2012, marked him out as the pre-eminent film director of the 21st century. Interstellar confirms this judgment.



  1. Peltast
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    So the wormhole was found near Saturn? This will give something to the “Saturn Conspiracionists” to talk about.

  2. R_Moreland
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the review…now I plan to see the movie!

    On a slightly related topic, you might consider reviewing the new war movie Fury.

    Yes, I know, it’s about an American tank crew fighting the Wehrmacht in the last days of the Third Reich. And it is full of cliches. But there are some interesting things in it:

    * The depiction of the American tank crew (headed by Brad Pitt) as ruthless veterans ought to inspire us to think of what is needed in the coming struggles ahead for the 21st century. The time for “Star Trek” humanism and “Saving Private Ryan” noblesse is long since gone.
    * There’s a manly, Crusader style religion at work. The movie does not buy into the Hollywood mockery of the religious — instead we see some serious prayer and faith in the cause as a means to prepare for the final battle.
    * The one minority member of the crew is Mexican-American who is told to speak English, follows the orders of his white commander loyally, and seems to assimilate himself into what appears to be an otherwise white army.
    * An actual Tiger tank! Who can resist?
    * No heart/gut wrenching concentration camp liberation scenes. Yes, when the Americans conquer a town there’s an SS officer “bad guy,” but the point is made that he is a heavy because he was executing German kids!
    * Speaking of the SS, in one scene an SS commander rallies his men by saying, “We are fighting for our land.” It’s only one line, yet it means so much for WN today!
    * And there’s a moment of common recognition between a young US trooper and a young German trooper…perhaps saying we white warriors ought to be fighting on the same side.

    • Hadrian
      Posted November 11, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Are you freaking kidding? I read through that film’s screenplay. The whole point of the movie is that war crimes against Germans were cool and badass and necessary to win the war. Do you also think Inglourious Basterds was secretly a pro-German war movie?

  3. stormrung
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Great movie. Comparisons to 2001 are more than that as Interstellar no doubt has a relationship with Kubrick’s movie.

    And the Matt Damon character, Dr. Mann: I thought it extremely important that he was referred to as “the best of us” earlier in the movie and later becomes a cowardly liar, murderer, destroyer.

  4. James O'Meara
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “While our destiny is the stars, our immediate future is nothing more than the albatross of places like Selma, Ferguson, and the pathetic sight – memory – of the Poor People’s Campaign of black people on a mule and cart demanding equality, justice, and the continuous penance by white people for their ancestors (supposed) sins and transgressions.

    “But there’s a monument in St. Louis, not far from Ferguson, standing as a testament to the courage, fearlessness, and pioneering spirit of a people who tamed the North American continent and sent men to the moon with the slide rule.

    “The Spirit of St. Louis wasn’t just the name of Charles Lindbergh’s plane; it resides in all who watched Interstellar and realized the movie represents a revolt against the unnatural state of the modern world.” Paul Kersey, Stuff Black People Don’t Like.

  5. Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Interstellar’s “Blight” can be seen a metaphor for de-Westernization of the USA and other European-derived societies. Decline, in all areas, comes through the corrosive effects of Blight (i.e., racial replacement). Blight makes areas unlivable and people have to emigrate (White Flight). The spread of Blight, in time, eventually spells the end of humanity (i.e., in the metaphor, the White race) itself, we are told.

    The extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional happenings of the film aside for a moment, I think it’s worth thinking about this. Consider the following:

    (1) Blight acts slowly, over years and decades. Likewise, real and ongoing racial dispossession is not a rapid knock-out game. It probably rarely is, in any time or place. It is a process over decades or even centuries. (The USA as 90% White USA fifty years ago, to only 60%+ today, and already only about 50% among under-18s, or so I understand.) (Note that this Blight’s timeframe is more realistic that the zombie movies [which are also very plausible metaphors for ‘the Rising Tide of Color’, as Richard Spencer explained last year] that seem to play out over a period of weeks or years, at most.)

    (2) Blight steadily erodes quality of life in one area after another, inducing people to emigrate from their homes. White Flight.

    (3) There is a general decline in cultural output in Blight-affected society. Early in “Interstellar”, we see a traveling baseball team of apparent amateur. It is revealed they are “the New York Yankees”. (I don’t need to belabor this point but let me, anyway: As Steve Sailer points out, the USA’s now-20% Hispanic population is almost invisible when it comes to entertainment output: movies, TV, music. What few you do see tend to be full-Europeans; the more Amerindian blood, the less visible.)

    (4) The post-Blight society in Interstellar maintains a general disparagement of the accomplishments of the (White) past. The “NASA faked the Moon landings” scene may be one of the key moments of the entire movie. It is official policy of the post-Blight America to teach that the Moon landing was faked, and meting out disciplinary action to students who dispute that it was faked. We already see a version of this today. The history of the USA as an evil, unjust, terror state (Just like Hitler started a series of wars solely to kill Jews, the USA’s raison de’tre from the beginning was to persecute and terrorize saintly Nonwhites of various kinds). The heroic Civil Rights crusaders fought back and triumphed. MLK as Jesus. You know. This is increasingly becoming the only vision of the arc of U.S. history allowed in respectable society. A survey asking high school students about “the greatest heroes in American history” yielded the following: (1) Saint MLK, (2) Rosa Parks(!), (3) Harriet Tubman(!!). Yes, that’s the top three. Let me repeat. That list constitutes the three greatest heroes in American history. Oprah Winfrey also made the top ten. Any of us ought to be annoyed and angered by that kind of survey result (which is a direct product of school curriculum), just as Cooper was in Interstellar to learn the curriculum about the supposedly fake Moon landings. This form of cultural blight is not the realm of conspiracy theory or fantasy. It’s s already here. I mean, really. We are culturally blighted already, even without Blight.

    (5) The victims of Blight we see are all White. As far as I recall, without exception, the people shown to suffer from Blight’s effects are just about all Whites. The main character’s family and the old folks talking on the video recordings in post-Blight interviews are all “typical White people” (to borrow an Obama phrase). I recall no Asians or Hispanics in the movie and only two Blacks who were, as usual, flat and detached in their saintliness. One a school principal and the other a brilliant, soft-spoken scientist (what else?). They were not really depicted as victims of Blight in any way.

    (6) “Back to Farming” as a sub-metaphor for the productive (White Core) population needing to work ever harder to prop up the decaying, Blight-affected society. The main character, Cooper, is a trained engineer and NASA pilot, it seems, but is forced to work as a farmer.

    (7) Wrapping up the metaphor(s): “Blight” as the process of de-Westernization through racial displacement; “Humanity” (we are told that Blight will kill off all of humanity within a century) as the White Core of the USA (and other Western countries); farming is a metaphor for hard work in general. And if you’d allow me to be so bold: The secret NASA cabal seeking a solution, but existing essentially underground, may be a metaphor for Counter-Currents…and the like.
    I’m sure the director and everybody else involved didn’t intend a racialist message (note that CC published “Christopher Nolan as a Fascist Filmmaker?” in 2012). Covert, subconscious, implicit, semi-intentional, even potentially unintentional.

    Christopher Nolan (b.1970) and Jonathan Nolan (b.1976)’s “childhood was split between London and Chicago”, Wiki says. Presumably this means they were aware of the Race Question, and could see it perhaps better than others, as semi-outsiders.

    When the movie goes in the direction of extra dimensions and all the rest, it becomes something much more ambitious and intriguing, but in so doing it may break out of the metaphor I attempt to sketch out above. Or maybe the metaphor (at least partially) holds: The character who saves the day, Cooper, is cut from the cloth of the traditional Western heroes and especially American ones (before the hijacking of the apparatuses of socialization and education got White children to idolize “Harriet Tubman” and so on). Cooper displays unusual courage, leadership, and other attractive qualities. A case can be made, as the reviewer Christpher Pankhurst alludes, for Cooper as a quintessentially European hero.

    Finally, one interesting scene at the end. The one that the reviewer here says is “uncomfortable to watch”, in which our pilot Cooper, still not yet 40 due to the effects of space flight relativity and all of that, meets his daughter, who has aged normally and become about 100 years old. Cooper, who has not aged, walks in to see her for the first time since she was a girl of 12 years old. Inside the hospital room we see a crowd of people. We are told are her children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren. Seemingly at least fifteen of them. All White. (The moment they turn and look at our hero, all at once, it is a bit disturbing; these are his grandchildren and great-grandchildren but many are older than he). The movie is not overtly racial at all (but, of course, no overtly pro-White racial movie would be allowed), but in the days of PC self-policing, including Nonwhites among the descendants of our “hero lost in time” might be expected.

    • Lew
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

      Excellent comment. In line with your remarks and this reading of the film, I’m posting this comment for general interest which I found under Roman Bernard’s review at Radix:

      Another scene in the movie that I thought was a dog whistle to us racists is the parent teacher conference. It features a black man and a liberal woman with government power telling the white man (who incidentally feeds them, and is more accomplished) what will happen, and even what to believe. It’s like Nolan is saying – you see what we’ve been reduced to! The world has gone to shit and our social inferiors are telling us what to do.

      Christopher Pankhurst’s wrote a fine review. I wouldn’t mind seeing Interstellar worked over by Hood and Lynch.

  6. Hail
    Posted November 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  7. R_Moreland
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    OK, I saw Interstellar on your recommendation, and was impressed with the film. Comments here are also worth thinking about.


  8. ChristopherP
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the comments. Personally, I would be flabbergasted to discover that Christopher Nolan has an ounce of sympathy for any of the views expressed on Counter-Currents or the wider Altrightosphere. I just can’t believe that a mainstream, successful film director could possibly hold such views. My instinct is that his commitment to an authentically artistic yet narrative driven film making causes him to bypass certain elements of political correctness and to inadvertently arrive at a quasi-Traditionalist template. Regardless of his personal views, this makes him a significant artist worthy of our attention. Is he the favourite film director of the intellectual far right?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      He is certainly my favorite young director. Among living directors, I prize only David Lynch more highly.

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