Interstellar and the melancholy of our only home

There is a reason why we are here on earth and not somewhere else; a gift or a burden according to our attitude, this is the fact. We live on earth, our only home; dreams and plans of colonising other drifting rocks have succeeded only in films. Interstellar is the newest of them, deploying its story through a long narration; a constant feel of suffocation and nausea, on earth caused by the blowing dust, in space resulting from the claustrophobic no-way-out room of the spacecraft, or the ammoniac air on the potential new homes, or the abnormal cylindrical form of the chosen new home; it keeps the dialogue to short phrases. The heroes save their breath all the way; there is doomed bravery, manipulative lies, imaginative trips through wormholes and time-spins and some humour coming from the accompanying robots. There is also one hero who has gone nuts* and takes the stigma of the coward and the evil; but his action is what triggers the catharsis, the solution that lets the pieces fall into some place. Saying that, the film leaves an open door to more stories to come; the script-writers might already be busy.

Themes that pass in the story: ecology, science, the NASA, history, ageing (individually and as species?), belief to a more powerful other and atheism as expression of confidence to our brain, trust to our gut feel on the other side, the individual versus the collective, love versus logic, and the duty to do what you can, just to mention some. Trust to humans in a melancholic way comes as bottom line and I can go with this since the basic questions: where am I, where am I going to, who are we anyway, pop up too while floating in space.

But there are more, less graceful questions to be asked, like: what happened to the animals; where they all extinct before space colonisation? Did we take any with, even in a tube? How did we find the way back to the same worm-hole? How did communication with the earth continue when we entered unknown space zones? While the film is full with scientific explanations that most of us do not understand anyway, such questions stay out of the list whatsoever. Still, we learn that a worm-hole looks like a sphere, and this is even drawn for us on paper!

Some expressed disappointment for the film while comparing it to Cubric’s Odyssey, not finding the poetry in Interstellar. It is too common for the theme, too silly, too casual. However, poetry in art has been accused as bourgeois aesthetics; on the other hand, the down to earth human sound of the film and the limited talks and movements, belong to our times poetry; not cursing but not praising either. The casual in this film strikes as the most honest expression of melancholy about the strives of humans; the earthy ones and the others. Besides, its earthy aesthetics brings to mind science fiction series of the 70’s like “Space 1999” or “Lost in space”; what a thrill!

Going back home from the cinema I felt younger than before I entered and lighter (some bricks lifted from the soul). It is not about hope; rather about a melancholy shared.


* I don’t know if it is a well silenced joke (or catch), but I couldn’t believe my eyes: they find Matt Damon on a star, and he is a coward and evil selfish nut-case!

P.S. 1 Once you’ve seen the film check also this article where the titles of the books falling from the shelves are revealed.

P.S. 2 The only real downer of Interstellar is the music; I ignored it all the way.

"Dark again", 2003 by S.Kapnissi
“Dark again”, 2003 by S.Kapnissi


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Muppets Most Wanted: color tv and the bad frog

The Muppets was one of the big entertainments in our slim television life back in the 70’s, next to Space: 1999 (and the runaway moon) and the Thunderbirds (International Rescue). I don’t remember when I saw the Muppets first time, but it was surely in black and white as everything else. Colour tv in Greece was only for rich people until the 80’s; by the time such a device was at reach I had lost interest to watch anything; including the Muppets.

One more decade further, in Holland, the Muppets revealed themselves in their real glory: I could only exclaim “oh, my god! they are coloured in all these funny tints and absurd combinations! … “this is a series that should be shown in art schools! … as indication of creative freedom within the commercial standards!”. It may sound pretentious, but remember this was a time when all colour was banned from artworks, especially when in such rebellious options; next to that, the absurdity of the show seemed as a juxtapose, or should I say parallel, to the concepts and art managers (the curators) that pulled the carpet under the artists feet; merely with the artists’ consent. Coming from the hippie times, the Muppets had preserved their rebel spirit; and yet…

Decades fly before you complete a thought; the Muppets reconnected two years ago and now they are again to see on the big screen in the film Muppets Most Wanted. The story starts as a James Bond parody, with the cold war stereotype of good-bad; politics have poisoned the Muppets too, was the first thought. But, if addressed to children, the references of the story either to spy films either to socio-political critic from Americans to Europeans, fall in blanc. I can assure you that a kid of seven does not get the joke “DIE MUPPETS” on the theatre board in Berlin (do you?). Neither of course the hints on the European working conditions with their fixed working hours and long holidays. Which, as side story, is absolutely hilarious and almost steals the show; for the grown-ups.

To not sound negative, the film starts in the swamp, literally, but develops into a full fun story, thanks to its contributors, from script writers to director and actors. Did I see Ray Liotta among the dancing prisoners in the Siberian Gulag? Was that Lady Gaga passing by in time shorter than a second? What did Zach Galifianakis say in the church at Miss Piggy’s wedding?

Wait a minute! Did I say wedding? Is Kermit and Miss Piggy finally married?

Of course I am not going to answer that, but just say that doubt is a sign of caring. There, now you have a sophisticated reason to watch Muppets Most Wanted.

P.S. Mickey (who is 7 and thanks to him I watch all these fun movies) thought that the funniest thing was the bad frog with two moles on his face (quite minimal, no?)…

"Do not press", 90x80cm, acrylic on canvas, 1998, S.Kapnissi
“Do not press”, 90x80cm, acrylic on canvas, 1998, S.Kapnissi


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“Nymphomaniac”- a study on hypocrisy

“Nymphomaniac I & II”, a film by Lars von Trier, 2013

A double trap woven with artistic values; a European story of satisfaction versus in-satisfaction and of sex-excess versus sexual abstention. It could be one film. The  reason that it is divided in two is mainly part of the plan of getting us in the end. Because this end is the black hole that sucks the whole story in and reverses it back to what we made of it. Incomprehensible? Not really; if you went to see the film, you are first of all curious, or you belong to the audience of Lars von Trier; so, cruelty towards your feelings, crashing of your beliefs, mockery of your aesthetic visions and none of this all, or exactly the opposites, are in the expected. So is the – unnecessary to my view – explanation in the end that the narrated extremes would not be so shocking if they referred to a male person instead of a female. Thanks, but then again we could figure that out without much.

After watching the first part of the total 330 minutes, it felt shorter than expected and incomplete, so I went to see the rest on the same evening. Whether entertained, shocked, bored  or not by the detached repetitive encounters bluntly shown, the confession of guilt and the references to our continent’s brilliancy in philosophy, music, cinema, etc. create expectations for a justified crescent; nothing like that happens of course; the “pain that must awaken the senses” part felt longer, even more because of it non concluding to anything; … and then once more we must thank art for being the buffer of reality.

The film could have a subtitle, like “-a European story”, “-pleasure and pain as daily practice” or “-a study on hypocrisy”. This last, the notion of hypocrisy, seems to bother von Trier mostly having been himself on the chair of the accused by journalists and the politically correct  who see the words and miss the meaning deliberately; that is how a decent living is made. Here to note that the chapter “Dangerous people” starts as a provocative joke. From that moment on it is clear that we are provoked to judge the persons and their actions and the one who put them there above all; a provocation that runs along the whole work; naturally.

As an artist in full control of his material von Trier makes a film of narration with flash-backs, some rules of the Dogma alive, some dead (where is the here and now?); but as said before, so what; they are his rules, so he breaks them as he wishes and that’s that. As form it is more built as a game of visions from the European cinema.

The film ends in a few minutes of blowing up the sex obsessed and the virgin and their stories too; whatever part we’ve taken, whatever prickled our senses (to say it in a civilised way) is thrown back to our face; live with it; angels and devils in one.

P.S. “The symptomatology of black bile had grown complex: depending on the humour on which it originated, and whether it was too hot, cold, moist or dry, it could produce lethargy or mania, taciturnity or loquacity, workaholism or paralysis, insomnia or stupor and anorexia or gluttony (showing in obesity or emaciation); it could make one a voluptuary or an ascetic. Though elaborate, the symptomatology gave a good accommodation for the ‘bipolar’ dimension of melancholia.”
Excerpt (p.140) from the book “The story of black” by John Harvey, Reaktion Books Ltd, 2013

Day 12 from the series "360 days", ink on paper, 2005-..., S.Kapnissi
Day 12 from the series “360 days”, ink on paper #ink, 2005-…, S.Kapnissi


It felt awkward in the beginning; perfectly aesthetic images and a steady camera. Main rules of Dogma 95 were overuled: “the camera must be hand-held” , “the sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa”. The introduction of the movie is a visual equivalent of the music, romantic music, Wagner! I am not fond of music helping out the film on emotional level; it usually feels like a cheat. But in this case you just cannot take your eyes off the screen. The story is said in the introduction; the most elliptical narration that you can have. And then we pass to the known field of the moving camera, unfocused restless shots, following the characters down to their psychological narrowness. Any sense of happiness is destroyed from the beginning so that we have no expectations of a way out. In the two parts of the film we see Justine’s wedding party ending with her submitting to depression. Then we follow Claire’s fears about the “fly-by” of the planet Melancholia. The movie ends with justification of both fears and depression. Justine is shown to be the strongest of the two sisters in the end. I think it is more that being depressed she associates herself better to the reality of destruction. Besides, Claire has a child and cries for him: “Where will Leo grow up?”. The answer is nowhere. This is a non-compromise movie about the end of the world. However, beauty and romanticism are present throughout the film. In fact, it is a purely romantic film about the end which is anyway inevitable. I don’t know if it is a dogma movie; rules have been broken. But “Melancholia” sets its own system and works in it; just like every work of art that is expected to be coherent to its own rules.

Thoughts that arise:
1. We must think above reality to be able to do anything at all.
2. The polished aesthetics have not left intact even the most determined anti-aesthetics movement.
3. Lars von Trier still manages to make a part of the audience leave the cinema half way, so there must be a flaw in his perfectly aesthetic movie.
4. There is still hope for the seekers of the basics.
5. Art is the best absorber of apocalyptic ideas; one more reason for teaching art at schools on the same level of importance as mathematics and language.

day 24, from the series 360 days