I spent the better part of my afternoon yesterday going across town to a large enough screen showing of Interstellar, figuring that no matter what the movie was like, at least I could immerse myself in its version of the larger spaciousness that surrounds our small, beleagered planet.
Plus, as usual, I had my sociological reasons. I wanted to see what the zeitgeist is serving up for humanity now, how Hollywood is currently entraining our collective mind.
Plus, knowing, as I did, beforehand, that the premise of the film was that of a ruined Earth, I wanted to see how Interstellar depicted that possibility? eventuality? as well. I suppose the imagination boggles, but what we had in this movie was a recreation of Oklahoma’s dust bowl, complete with lines of scraggly families in scratched rusty pickups with belongings and kids piled on top, leaving the windy, dusty rural hinterlands — but for where? The movie hints that “underground” is a possibility, at least for elite scientists. But the others? I had read a review beforehand of how people were saying “I’m sorry,” a lot in the movie, and I guess I must have projected that they were apologizing for how our human species has, in its insatiable, myopic compulsion to continuously “expand” its “material goods,” both used up the extractable resources of this finite planet as well as destroyed the ecosystem on which we all depend for life.
But no. The apologies were human-centered: from those who had lied to one another in order to preserve civil order, to keep their grandkids from being scared, or for sheer self-survival. Not much about Earth herself, except that she is reduced to “dirt,” as in this already famous quote, by Cooper, the principal character:
We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.
Though I, too, talk about Looking Up rather than Looking Down, I don’t do it to denigrate what’s “down” but to point out its complement, “up,” and to say we need to do, see, be, BOTH. Both heads in the stars and feet on the ground.
In this movie, the Earth, aside from humans, any other “thing” is just that, a thing, not a living being — except for the robots on board space vehicles, which sound disturbingly human, and almost treated as such. I’m reminded of the transhumanist agenda here. And I grow paranoid. Should I?
And of course, there was the usual fascination with technology, the more huge, complex and intricate the better, and how we use technology to further our own agendas. Done up with the usual swelling orchestral sounds, eerie clicks and groans and excruciating, edge-of-seat dragged out couplings in outer space of “impossible but necessary” technologies. And yes, unusually arresting glitzy depictions of black holes and worm holes. And lots of high sounding talk about people sacrificing their individual lives for the life of the species and/or for their own loved ones. And plenty of scientific babble cum chalkboarded equations, and even some muddled talk about 4th and 5th dimensions, and even more muddled “mystical” talk about “love” and its capacity to connect the dimensions.
The one really redeeming feature of this movie was its effort to depict human emotional responsiveness to the loss and reconnection of humans to one another. That aspect was exceedingly well done. And I guess I should be happy that the question of dimensions was broached, as well as that about service to others, and about love. Happy that at least this movie, unlike all the trailers for the five intensely violent monster and dystopian technological movies that preceded the feature yesterday, does begin to address these further subjects.
However, it was the film’s utter denigration of Mother Earth that did, and does preoccupy me. Indeed, I feel a deep disturbance in my being at the fact that this movie, with all it implies, is being seen by millions around the world, entraining humans even more deeply into disconnection from Earth in favor of technology, into glorifying intrepid solo “heroes,” and into other possible inhabitable planets as the only solution to the worst excesses of our all too human nature.
Usually I watch movies on my couch. I wanted to see this one on the big screen, just like I saw Avatar, two years ago, and was glad I did. The scene with the tribal peoples surrounding and swaying in unison with the branches of the enormous tree stayed with me in memory. Did it really happen? Or did I make it up. Ah, it did happen. I just checked in with neighbor Rebecca, who also saw that film. In any case, the swaying scene, I heard later, made a lot of people cry. It stirred something in our souls. A communion, long lost, with Earth, her soul, her aliveness, that courses through all of us, or it could and would, were we to truly ground ourselves here and now.
Oh, and from a sociological perspective, I am grateful that this movie addresses the idea of a ruined Earth. Hopefully, it will provoke us to start to think more deeply about what does appear to be a climactic time in human — and planetary — history.
BTW: in looking for an image for the “swaying trees with humans” in Avatar, I came upon this:
And a snippet from an article that accompanies it. Very interesting, and resonant with my feelings about Interstellar.