Interstellar is about a dying earth as crop blights are killing all the crops, threatening humanity’s survival. Cooper a former NASA pilot, whom now runs a farm, gets called back in to go on a mission, in which he will go to a wormhole by Saturn, that leads to a distant galaxy, to see if there are any potential habitable planets. With this Cooper has to leave his family, and the idea of relativity and the theme of time is portrayed in this film through the cinematography. *spoiler* In the end we come to find out that the head professor at NASA had no intentions of them returning from their mission, in which in the end they do, but Cooper’s daughter, Murphy, figures out another way to save mankind and creates a space-world that orbits around Saturn.
Hoytema (the cinematographer of this film) in a behind the scenes take on Interstellar’s cinematography said that he wanted to approach the film realistically. He wanted the lighting, props, and costumes to look like real NASA props. They choice to use an IMAX for the film because NASA has taken IMAX’s into space before to film, and Hoytema says that there is a certain look IMAX has in space, and he wanted to portray that reality and historical-ness in this film. Additionally, Hoytema sometimes free-handed the IMAX to give a more personalized and realistic feel, which is said to not be done very often. In addition, this wasn’t the only camera they used on set, they also use a Panavision anamorphic at 35mm for some of the shots. In which the film had changing aspect ratio’s throughout its duration.
Lighting tends to be very soft, but varied throughout different scenes of Interstellar. The lighting is really where a lot of the story’s deeper meaning and foreshadowing comes from. In the beginning of the film there tends to be harsher toned scene, giving you a kind of horror movie vibe, very yellowish dark hues. However, this ties in with the story because it represents the fate of this worlds at the time, with crops dying everyone starts to lose hope of survival and thus there is a sensation of horror within these peoples lives.
Also in the beginning of the film we get a few scenes of Cooper with this sort of greenish, purple-ish hue, which kind of gives you this dream-like feeling. This is important because it represents, to an extent, the feelings of Cooper and his dreams of going back into space. Foreshadowing that he will be going back into space. There is meaning with the lighting of each scene. Another example, in the scene when Cooper and the head professor at NASA are talking about the mission in his office, we are give very different lightnings of each character. The professor at NASA is top light, giving you a feeling of unease and discomfort. Essentially foreshadows the characterization of the professor, because he never intended on cooper and Brand of coming back from their mission. In this scene the professor visually does not look good. However, when we switch to Cooper in this conversation he is very softly light, giving us comfortably and an easy engagement on him.
As the film moves along a lot of the scenes start to get softer and softer, and aren’t really saturated much at all, portraying a feeling of hope and ease as Cooper and his team make their way to space. This helps captivate the audience and truly portray that feeling of ease and hope from these visual techniques. It’s truly stellar.
Sun-flares. These are used a lot in the film, in which expresses this worlds reality and represents the illusion of time. With the earths hazy dust and constant sun-flares, we get a feeling of uneasy and unsettlement, sometimes wanting to cover our eyes, because they at most points are that intense. However, this also ties into the realistic lightening effects we see when they are on the spaceship. There spaceship is constantly turning, which gives them gravity, thus the sun is constantly coming in and out of the shots. It’s like an emotional metronome, and signifies the idea of time and relativity. The idea that a few hours on the different planets they visit is about 24 years on earth. Those sun-flare represent time and the idea of days, months, and years; emphasizing the emotional role the sun plays in this film. Especially during the scene when Cooper is watching all of the videos his family sent him from earth.
Depth of field and Bowing. We see a lot of shallow depth of field when we are zoomed in on main characters. Truly capturing the audience in on those character and their emotions in the scene. A lot of the time its when the characters are in distress or emotional that we are very “distant” from the background, setting up and illustrating their feeling of alienation which is a consistent theme through the entirety of this film, both with the characters on earth and in space. The only scenes that have deep depth of field is when Cooper and Brand approach another planet, you see that connection, because this is what they were sent out to do, find another sustainable planet, and they try to feel that connection, however at the end we see it shift to a shallow depth of field, because none of the planets are really that sustainable, or “home.”
Also in a few shots, there is Bowing and you can very clearly see it, which comes from the anamorphic lens used in this film. It gives the effect and the feeling of a black hole, which foreshadows the ending. The audience is pulled in closer, forced to visually narrow their focus on a specific person and object, emphasizing engagement and importance. As well as portraying an idea of distance through the bowing because everyone is brought in. It’s a weird effect, but truly ties into this film and helps visually capture and portray the characters feelings, while also incredibly giving us a deeper meaning and foreshadowment.
The last shot I want to talk about is about parallel shots. When Cooper leaves his house for the last time to go on his mission the camera is attached to his car and we see him take off with a shot of the house in the background getting smaller and smaller. We see this exact shot when Cooper and his crew head into space. The camera is attached to the side and as it lifts off we see earth get smaller and smaller in the distance. I just thought these were symbolic cinematic shots that showed deeper meaning. The possible symbolism of “home” and the meaning of the term, Cooper’s house and earth. In addition, to the representation of the characters physical distance through movement rather than their emotional feeling of distance that we see through the cinematography.