Interstellar Live

Interstellar Live

Rebecca Kuntz reviews the memorable live viewing that took place at the Royal Albert Hall

Interstellar – UCL alumnus Christopher Nolan’s cinematic foray into the depths of outer space – opened in cinemas back in October 2014. To coincide with the Blu-ray/DVD release, the film was screened at the Royal Albert Hall on March 30th. It was an unforgettable one-night-only event for this writer. Called Interstellar Live, it was a unique experience on two counts: it blended the visual spectacle of cinema with a live orchestra performing the film’s score; and the top creative people came to discuss the complex process of integrating science (fact) and story (fiction) into a cohesive cinematic narrative.

Before the screening, Stephen Hawking introduced fellow theoretical physicists Kip Thorne and Professor Brian Cox along with director Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer for a Q&A on stage. Brian Cox served as a moderator for the panel, allowing focus first on Nolan, who explained how the filmmaking process unfolded. Hans Zimmer then discussed the challenges faced when creating a complex and emotional score. Finally, Kip Thorne described his role as consultant and executive producer for the film. The discussion ranged from the truth behind the physics of space – theories of black holes and the relativity of time – to the parent/child dynamics explored through the protagonist’s sacrifices for his family. Hans Zimmer summarized the film’s balance of art, reality and physics, in which “great science keeps humanity in its focus”. On several occasions, Kip Thorne, whose book The Science of Interstellar goes deeper into the subject, used a PowerPoint presentation to clarify the complexities of the five-dimensional Tesseract and the visual depiction of the black hole Gargantua.

By having a 60-piece orchestra playing over the picture, the audience was able to appreciate the multiple layers of emotion within the film. On one level, by hearing the players perform with their instruments – that is, coming from a live source – a powerful wall of sound hits the viewers and fills the auditorium. It is an experience similar to a concert. On another, the intensity of the film sweeps up the audience in such a way that images and sound merge to create a distinctive whole. At peak moments, the score’s intensity is almost overwhelming. In particular, after the climatic imperfect lock/docking scene near the end, the audience gave an ovation, recognising the passion of the musician’s performance.

Even though I had seen Interstellar twice before and was familiar with the plot, having experienced it a third time shifted my perception of the film. The bonus of the pre-show discussion and the live orchestral performance superbly enhanced the evening.  Interestingly, I became very aware of Nolan’s strict adherence to the laws of physics, and his painstaking devotion to camera visual effects as opposed to digital tricks, the latter being much less realistic.

Interstellar Live was an excellent marketing strategy to publicise the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release, and in a spectacular venue like the Royal Albert Hall. One can’t help but remember fondly that Alfred Hitchcock used it as the settings for murderous attempts in both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Last Monday, science and art got everybody’s eyes and ears riveted to stage and screen.

Featured image credit: Rebecca Kuntz

Rebecca Kuntz