*WARNING: SPOILERS (Please do not read until you’ve seen the film)*
The following is one Christian’s interpretation of the blockbuster 2014 Christopher and Jonathan Nolan film Interstellar. All thoughts expressed are my own.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
—Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953
“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.” –Cooper, Interstellar, IMDB
Let’s get one thing straight. Interstellar is not a perfect movie, just an incredibly smart, innovative one. While I personally would opt for a more diverse cast to represent the whole of America (for a moment in the theater, I gave a slight fist pump, mistakenly thinking Dr. Mann was Cantonese based on the sound of his last name.), the gracefully written extended metaphors rang true for me. In Interstellar, our distant, dystopic future seems bleak. The world back tracks into corn farming, seemingly letting go of technological advancement to merely pursue basic survival in the midst of starvation. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) plays the part of the bold, brazen NASA astronaut turned farmer out to protect his two children. However, the now underground NASA scientists, in a turn of strange events involving a ghost, recruit Coop as the pilot for their interstellar Lazarus mission headed by the Dr. Brand (Michael Caine).
Alright, enough of the plot summary. What was it about this particular sci-fi film that distinguished itself from other deep space odysseys? I would have to say the profound awareness of love as something tangible and not of this world, yet somehow slightly outside of our complete understanding. As someone who identifies as a Christian, this is the Gospel for me. Tangible, steadfast love seen through often inexplicable series of events. Love that is so fine and gossamer that it cannot possibly be made from rough human hands (though we try, imperfectly to replicate it), but from somewhere else. Despite all of our examination and study of human emotion, do we fully grasp what on earth true love is?
I believe, in many ways, Interstellar not only crosses galaxies, but also crosses minds as a depiction of love so pure we cannot help but pay attention. It relays a love that crosses galaxies. I think for me, that’s who God is. A Father, somewhere in the 5th or even 9th dimension that many other people do not see or believe, but who is, as Murph says, “my ghost.” He’s my Ghost. I was never afraid of Him, just curious and trying to read the signs so mysterious to earthly hands. Strange circumstances, often seen as tribulation or pain, but rising to the surface as another lead in the right direction. Granted, God is not stuck in a bookcase somewhere or put there by “Bolt Beings”…He just was, is, is to come. Perhaps His form of communication is more through Scripture, just one book (but what a book it is). Interstellar convinces us that one finite moment in time can connect in a beautiful, tapestry-like stream woven together by a determined father. For me, this is a beautiful metaphor about how God cares about us. However, God is a perfect version to Coop’s flawed human one, even sacrificing His own Son to change the world. Some might say that Coop is a metaphorical representation of this sacrifice, leaving behind his two children in order to save all of mankind, an anomaly that hurtles through time-space for love. God cries for us, He laughs with us, He misses us. In the middle of hardships, I’m trying to remember that God is a God who cares across time and space. He sees us, even when we feel like He doesn’t.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” –1 John 3:1 ESV
Wrapped into that sacrificial parent-child bond, the film revels in creating a sense and longing for home. Interstellar may journey into the great unknown, but it is also a journey to find our way back. Like its namesake, the Lazarus project aims to bring people back from the brink of death to find a home among the stars. Dr. Mann, brought back to life from his extended hyper-sleep only to be dead to his humanity. Lazarus, who came back from the dead a verse before the plot to kill Jesus is revealed in the Bible (John 11). These aforementioned examples all express a desire to rise, to come back, to begin again. As humans, we want to start over all the time. Christianity believes just that, that the living God allows us to rise again through His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s not a love that stops searching, but continues to draw us back home, to an interstellar God. If you’re into metaphors, God created a wormhole into heaven by sacrificing His Son. It is a means for us to return home.
“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”-Matthew 28:6 ESV
As in any great film worth its salt, Interstellar explores the depth and depravity of mankind. We feel the heartache and springs of joy with the crew of the Endurance. The same way, we experience the utter disgust and loathing for Matt Damon’s character, so hell-bent on his own survival and self. Fear is a power all its own (as Nolan covers in Batman), but it is a selfish love that warps human relationships. Mann admits to his cowardice and his weakness, but does nothing to combat it, destroying everyone in his wake (or at least trying to). As much as I detest this character (I actually yelled, “Die, Matt Damon!” in the Luodong theater. My bad, Matt Damon.), I think when I try to operate without God, I end up behaving exactly like him. I fight for my own desires and wants, never acknowledging what it is to love someone else more than myself. In the impenetrable depths of hyper-sleep on a lonely cold planet, living next to “the literal heart of darkness” (Doyle, Interstellar), I sink into selfishness. It’s the easier, human nature choice. I can’t bear my own pain, so why not choose to stop it and cause more for others? I think our natural inclination is not to love God or people, but ourselves. Cooper embodies the exact opposite, “the best of humanity.” (Insert comment about mainstream media and diversity/equality here…but that’s another story). He will do just about anything for his children, even when time passes differently. Love defines us, refines us, and makes us that much more like God…willing to give it all up for the sake of someone else’s salvation.
I could write about Interstellar for ages because it’s one of those movies that sticks to your ribs, something hardy and worthwhile. To be honest, it really strengthened my Christian faith. I felt like Murph growing up. I didn’t know my Father, and I desperately searched for Him. In the eleventh hour, I called out, and He answered. You might vehemently disagree, but I can’t explain this kind of love that crash landed into my life…something with gravity, with weight.
He’s my (Holy)Ghost.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”–John 8:32 ESV