Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar has been knocking around in my brain over the last couple of days. It is, as I say in the review, a very ambitious movie—one with lots of big themes that need some time to unpack—and I’m kind of excited about exploring some of them in an upcoming Movie Night.
But even as the movie’s ideas tumble through my noggin, there’s one element of the film that doesn’t require a lot of thought:
Interstellar sure is pretty.
It’s beautiful, in fact. Gorgeous. Awesome, even—not in our 21st-century sense of the word, but as a hymnist might use it:
Oh Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
In Interstellar, moviegoers see a bit of that awesome wonder. Viewers cruise through the inky purity of a space pocked with stars and dive through spangled wormholes. They land on watery planets with waves the size of mountains and dodge frozen clouds. Even boring ol’ Earth catches the eye, what with its rolling fields of corn and terrifyingly towering dust storms. (The latter aren’t pretty, exactly, but they certainly do attract your attention.) If you want the lowdown on the actual movie, read my review. But the visuals, at least, are an argument for IMAX.
The beautiful images made, in some ways, for a fascinating juxtaposition against the story’s hard-science roots. It’s a movie with a worldview seems rooted in scientific humanism. But as a Christian, it’s hard to watch this film, see the universe float by our eyeballs and not be awed by the Creator who made it all.
Movies are a visual storytelling medium. And as such, there are times when I think we’re moved even more by what we see than what the story is actually saying. This can, of course, be one of the dangers of film: A director might be trying to tell you how damaging sex can be, but some might lose that message in the midst of the film’s sexy content.
But it works the other way, too. Movies can be, quite literally, beautiful. And even if the story doesn’t work on some level, moviegoers still might be struck, in a good way, by the movie’s scenic wonders.
I think about Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 Oscar-winning film that brought the sweeping deserts of the Middle East to theaters. That movie just cries out for the biggest screen possible. Dr. Zhivago from 1965, which takes place in chilly Russia, impacts me in much the same way: It was the middle of a hot, sticky summer when I saw the movie for the first time as an adult. By the time it was done, I was shivering. Even documentaries like March of the Penguins can move me with the images they display.
What about you? Are there films—maybe even films you didn’t particularly like—that were, nevertheless, beautiful, and reminders of God’s glory?