To the starry sky

Now, when we walk into the theater to watch a space movie, what do we want to see?

The world seems to have changed, and it is hard to imagine what kind of response would be received if “2001: A Space Odyssey” is released this year. It’s also hard to imagine how today’s viewers would look at works like Tarkovsky’s Star Solaris. Today, space and the universe seem to be beyond the boundaries of imagination and cognition. Whether it is a relatively commercial work such as “Interstellar”, “Gravity”, or a strong author-style movie such as Claire Deny’s “Space Life”, the bold imagination of the unknown seems to give way to the familiar form of the story. There is nothing new under the sun, and so is escape from the solar system.

James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is such a difficult movie to evaluate. If the audience wants to see the magnificent adventure story and unknown world about space, it will probably be very disappointed; but beyond the stereotype of the space film, this is another simple and beautiful song of growth.

Space, or the scenery we’re used to
The story of “Interstellar Exploration” summed up quite well enough to be unkind: Astronaut Roy, played by Brad Pitt, was abandoned by his father from an early age; his father was an excellent astronaut, and he set out to find alien life 16 years ago and was mysterious Missing; 16 years later, a sudden large amount of electron flow appeared in the place where his father disappeared and caused a devastating blow to the earth; so Roy accepted the mission of NASA to go to space to report to his surviving father and try to stop the disaster; In the end, Roy faced the truth about the relationship between father and son, and also solved the cognitive problem that had lasted for more than a decade.

An almost crude Oedipus story without twists, turns, or even accidents. Stable as the protagonist himself, his heart rate never exceeded 80 in any extreme case. The boy who looks like a man is looking for his father who abandoned him. When he finds it, he finds that his father is not a hero, scientist and pioneer as he had imagined, but a murderer, a paranoid, a lunatic and an aging person. The spiritual father and the physical father fell together in the infinite space next to Neptune, and the protagonist returned home, returned to real life and obtained true peace.

The simplicity at the story level cannot hide the outstanding ability of the director. The film’s photography, music, and rhythm are all good. The actors’ performances are quite moving, and the integration between the various plot units is almost poetic. In some episodes, the author almost felt the slow poetic accumulation of Tarkovsky’s Star of Solaris. The most interesting point of all this is the daily imagination of the space world. In the near future, the protagonist will take a “commercial rocket” to the moon and then to Mars. The imagination of a commercial rocket is almost infinitely close to our existing commercial aircraft: the “rocket stewardess” thanked all passengers for participating in this voyage with a gentle and alienated voice. Astronauts wore heavy spacesuits, but talked politely in economy class; yes You can also enjoy the audio-visual entertainment system when you buy earplugs and eye masks; the way astronauts on the rocket talk to the coach driver is unlimited, and there are not only fast food restaurants on the moon, but also DHL Post.

This imitation of the life of the present earth is not just a mimicry of the details of life. In the near future, human territory will expand into space, as will ambition, politics and violence. In the film, the protagonist is always suffering from bureaucracy and incompetence. The information is hierarchical, so he never knows why he wants to do this, what to do next, or what he can do. The system’s control over people is also Kafka’s: Every day, we must tell everything about the experience and privacy of a machine, and let a cold machine voice judge whether it has passed a psychological test. The minions of the resource war also extend to the surface of the moon. In the black and white vacuum silence, astronauts fire at each other, every second involves life and death and human greed. Despite being in space, man seems to be a screw in the modern capitalist machine: always entangled with the system, always controlled by the system, loneliness and alienation follow.

This loneliness is also the loneliness that the actor has always faced: he cannot face the people in the system, and he cannot have the “normal” feelings that everyone should have. Under the touch of his wife, he would dodge; in front of his laughing colleague, his eyes moved and he said nothing. The only moments of peace he had were when he narrated his feelings to the machine, and when a man faced the vast and dangerous space. In front of the machine, he does not have to deal with feelings and injuries; in space, he is always alone. And this loneliness is also the solitude of the earth, not the new space-like loneliness.

Eternal Return and Growth Novel
From the perspective of the story, the protagonist’s escape from relationships, people and emotions has nothing to do with the electromagnetic waves from space, near future and Neptune, but only with the unresolved Oedipus complex. This time, Freud’s forces reached the Neptune satellite belt and finally created a major crisis that was about to destroy humanity.

This choice of story constitutes both the long and short boards of the film. Because the story is simple, various forms of space can appear to the audience so beautifully and slowly; but because of the cliché and repetition of the story, some viewers feel that the film is incomprehensible and sleepy.

I have no intention of criticizing this choice of Freudian family novels, I just want to talk about the effects it brings. This kind of tendency to dailyize science fiction has been common in film and television works in recent years: in “Interstellar”, the expression of time is only to tell a family story; the tribute to countless space films in “Gravity”, Just completed a homeless return. But when we look back at the golden age of science fiction, whether it is Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Silver Planet, or Rise of the Orangutan, they are renewing human exploration of cognitive boundaries. If you compare Takovsky’s “Solarius Star”, you can see the difference in thinking between the two space stories. In “Cable”, astronaut Chris arrives at the space station near Solaris and discovers that the planet reflects all his conscious desires. So the dead wife came to him as a neutrino creature and slowly approached humans. When the audience thought that the film was a love story in the form of a space skin, the story turned sharply: the duplicated wife was destroyed, and the scientists thought that the planet finally began to understand and communicate with humans, and returned to Earth. However, this return home is also a virtual reality provided by Solaris: the house began to rain, and the protagonist kneeled in front of his father, making a penitent gesture. .

In Solaris, the story of love, memory and homecoming discusses the limits of human cognition: how do we know a mirror? When an object has no subject and only reflects the viewer’s desire, how should we understand and communicate with it? This is an outward thinking, and it is also in line with the story mechanism of space films’ outward exploration. But in Interstellar, the core of the story is introverted. The more the protagonist’s body escapes from the earth, the more his spirit dives deeper into himself. The turning point in the story comes as he captures a weapon loaded with nuclear bombs and travels to Neptune to confront his father. In the 80 days of absolute loneliness, the protagonist gradually realized that the loneliness he wanted was not real loneliness, but just a means of escape. So this voyage, which escaped government, system, and power, finally turned into an emotional pursuit. In such loneliness, he finally realized that the contact and trust he had been avoiding was the nourishment of life, and he also increasingly missed his neglected wife and loved ones around him. At the base of Neptune, the protagonist confronted his old father and found that when he was faint, confused, and crazy, instead of being hysterical, he said the sentence that he had wanted to say for more than ten years: “Even so I love you.”

This is the spiritual uncle and the real growth moment for the protagonist. But how can we blame such a story, it seems to be related to all of us. In “Solaris Star”, a scientist accused the protagonist of “turning the pursuit of science into a love story”, and “Interstellar Discovery” also turned a science story into a growth novel, but is this a problem? Why can’t space be a metaphor for one’s inner world? The title Ad Astra is taken from the Latin proverb “Per aspera ad astra”, which means “go through the danger and go to the stars”. The protagonist experiences not only physical evils, but also spiritual obstacles. As the ultimate goal, the starry sky is not only the space that exists in reality, but also spiritual freedom and breadth.