The Religiosity of “Interstellar”

Image: Paramount Pictures
Image: Paramount Pictures

On Tuesday, my husband and I settled in to see a 35mm screening of Interstellar, that movie that you need to see soon if you don’t want to spend the next few months explaining to people that you haven’t seen it. (Brett McCracken skillfully reviewed it for us when it released last week.)

I generally like Nolan’s films, mostly because I like having my mind contorted. And, sorry, haters: I liked this one too, though it took me till That Really Crazy Mind-Bending Moment (you know the one) to be really into it. It’s not really for the faint of heart, and there are definitely bits that don’t work, story-wise. But in a pretty good year for movies, this is still a solid one.

The r/Religious movie question I’ve been writing about lately started clanging in my head right about when it looked like humanity was going extinct, which is to say in the opening credits. I didn’t have a notebook handy, because I was trying to just watch the film and not write about it (hashtag fail).

But I did have some thoughts, and wanted to see what CT readers thought. So here are some conversation starters.

(Some unavoidable spoilers within.)

This is an inescapably (r)eligious film.
More than most movies I’ve seen this year.

Today, Megan Garber at The Atlantic said as much in a piece I strongly commend to you, perfectly nailing the distinction I wrote about two weeks ago:

None of which is to say that Interstellar is a Christian—or even a religious—film. It is not, and this is the point. The “they” is not necessarily a metaphysical being; Zimmer’s organ was chosen, he has said, for “its significance to science.” Good and evil, faith and love—these ideas, of course, extend far beyond religion.

What it is to say, though, is that Interstellar, like so many space movies before it, has adopted the themes of religious inquiry. The scope of space as a setting—the story that takes place within the context of the universe itself, across dimensions—has allowed Nolan, like so many filmmakers before him, the permission of implication.

Yes! Thank you, Megan Garber. She is also correct that outer space has proved a convenient setting for these stories, which—I’d add—is because even though we’ve ventured there, they still occupy the imaginative space that sci-fi does for most of us, and the purpose of sci-fi is to unsettle us by taking familiar stories and placing them in unfamiliar settings so we can consider them anew.

To me it seems that Interstellar, perhaps more than any of Nolan’s films to date, positively resounds with religious—even Christian—stuff that might not ring as loudly if you weren’t steeped in it to begin with.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Alissa Wilkinson

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