I love movies. In college, on my off hours, I would sometimes go catch a movie by myself. I’d pay the matinée price, get popcorn and a soda, and imagine I was a critic at a private screening. The best films, like the best novels, offer the viewer a chance to escape reality for a few hours and get caught up in a story. Movie fans tend to identify with their favorite actors and actresses. Being a writer, I have my list of screenwriters and directors I’d love to meet one day. One of the men on that list is Christopher Nolan.
Nolan directed the most recent trilogy of Batman movies, Memento, Inception, The Prestige, and his newest film is released in the US tomorrow. It’s called Interstellar and you can find the trailer below:
The Guardian published an interesting profile on Nolan today. It is a detailed examination of his work habits and personality. The story below stuck with me. In the quote, composer Hans Zimmer talks about Nolan approaching him with a short story, a concept behind the movie itself, and asking him to put together a piece of music around the story.
On the paper was a short story, no more than a precis, about a father who leaves his child to do an important job. It contained two lines of dialogue – “I’ll come back” “When?” – and quoted something Zimmer had said a year before, during a long conversation with Nolan and his wife at the Wolesley restaurant in London. It was snowing, central London had ground to a halt, and the three of them were more or less stranded. “There was no movie to be made, there was no movie to discuss, we were talking about our children,” said Zimmer, who has a 15-year-old son. “I said, ‘once your children are born, you can never look at yourself through your eyes any more, you always look at yourself through their eyes.”
Two parts stand out to me. First, Zimmer is dead on with his quote about children. They do shift our perspective. I constantly judge myself against Carter and Aiden’s expectations. I weigh myself against their ideal father. Expectation can be a cruel judge and we are often our largest accuser.
The second part is the two lines of dialogue from the story.
“I’ll come back.”
A statement and a question. The essence of faith, of family, and life. We live in this vacuum, this convergence of promise and inquiry. What is faith if not the eternal asking of the question? Family and marriage exist on this plane of longing. As men, we check out mentally and emotionally more than we ever know. I know I’m guilty.
Something about those two lines burrows deep into my soul.
Nolan says, in the final paragraph:
“I’ve always believed that if you want to really try and make a great film, not a good film, but a great film, you have to take a lot of risks. It was very clear to me that if you’re going to make a film called Interstellar, it’s going to have to be something extremely ambitious. You push it in all the possible directions you can. Not for its own sake, but because you know that if you’re going to try to add something to the canon, besides fiction films and all the rest, and live up to the promise of that title and the scale of that title, you really have to go there.”
As you go through this week, consider where you are checking out and who is waiting for you to return. Think about what risks you could take and what directions you could push. For some, it may be large-scale like training for a marathon. For others, it is calling that friend you haven’t seen in years.
Maybe even finding the strength to get out of bed tomorrow.
Never give up on your own story. Be ambitious. Make something special. Why settle for ordinary? Go to that place, come back, and you’ll never forget it.