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Interstellar in IMAX reminds us what it means to be human

interstellar background 1

A scene opening the second act of Interstellar finds the Matthew McConaughey-led team of deep space explorers awaken from cryo-sleep just outside of orbit of Saturn.

At this point of Nolan’s epic, it has been years since the humans have left earth. Their destination–a wormhole to another galaxy–waits for them somewhere in the forward abyss.

With a knock on the spacecraft’s hull, one of the expedition scientists Romilly (played by David Gyasi) laments to Cooper (McConaughey) of the thin coating of aluminium that separates them from infinite space.

It is a moment of abject vulnerability for Romilly, a realisation of how distance can undermine the significance of human endeavour.

This is the landscape of director Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster epic.

Taken as a filmic text, Interstellar has issues. The plot requires a number of leaps of faith (and perhaps logic) to stay the course. Nolan and brother and co-writer Jonathan, often seem in a hurry to get particular plot elements out of the way, perhaps aware of the scope of their own ambition and the limited time to realise it.

But seen at 70mm, on the world’s 3rd biggest screen in Melbourne, such concerns seem entirely insignificant.

On IMAX, projected at an astounding 70mm, space takes on a scope that goes beyond cinema. Gone are the black borders that are synonymous with ‘cinema scope’. Instead, 70mm is like looking out a window. Almost every inch of your vertical and horizontal peripheral vision is accounted for, rendering space like space, for the first time.

At this size, black holes actually feel gargantuan. Human space craft look miniature as they pass planets of inconceivable size. Viewers of Interstellar at this size are given a uniquely human view of the expedition.

The film is at its best when its characters are facing their vulnerabilities, physically, spiritually and emotionally. It reminds us of our own fragile existence, and of the moments of vulnerability many of us try to cleanse from our lives.

This is the revelation of IMAX; the chance to feel strikingly small, without ever leaving the Earth.