Interstellar: the Queen connection to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster

8 Nov

Interstellar

Interstellar. Great film. But what the credits won’t tell you is that although it is ostensibly scripted by the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, it was really dreamt up by Brian May of Queen.

Let me explain.

Brian May, as well as being an ace guitarist and implausibly coiffed rock god, is also a PhD in Astrophysics. He put his interest in Space to good use by writing and singing one of Queen’s finest songs. ’39, as you will see from the lyrics below, uncannily parallels the plot of Interstellar. [Spoiler note: this is just the broad thrust of the plot – I don’t think it will spoil your enjoyment of the film. If you are worried, come back to this after you’ve seen the film, and tell me I’m right!]

In the year of ’39 assembled here the volunteers
In the days when the lands were few
Here the ship [ie spaceship] sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
Sweetest sign ever seen

And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas [ie Milky Way]
Ne’er looked back, never feared, never cried

[chorus] Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand [once you’ve seen Interstellar, you will know how spookily this line parallels the film!]
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

In the year of ’39 [a hundred years later, that is] came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news of a world so newly born [yep, they’d gone off looking for a new planet]
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey [because the Earth is screwed], little darling we’ll away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone though I’m older but a year [basic Theory of Relativity: time passes relatively more slowly the closer you get to the speed of light]
Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me [and so the love of his life is now as old and grey as the Earth]

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand for the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand

For my life
Still ahead
Pity me

Love that song. Surprisingly moving. As is the film. Interstellar is that very rare beast: a big-budget sci-fi movie that deals with big questions about the human condition, rather than just going for action (though that’s also well done). It’s best seen in 70mm or IMAX, though I must caution you that, on the BFI IMAX screen, the size of Anne Hathaway’s eyes and lips is downright alarming.

Dear Christopher Nolan and his lawyers: I am not genuinely suggesting plagiarism here. There are plenty of sci-fi stories predating ’39 that deal with the same subject, and anyway there is no copyright on ideas in the public domain, only on the execution. But you have to admit, it’s a nice parallel.

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12 Responses to “Interstellar: the Queen connection to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster”

  1. Movie Masticator November 8, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    It is indeed a nice parallel. Big fan of both Queen and Interstellar. But the movie is definitely not for everyone.

    If you get a moment – Take a look at my review here http://bit.ly/1z4obO1

    • dominicwells November 10, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

      Nice review, totally agree. I know people who’ve been left pretty cold by it, but I really like the fact that it tries at least to address some big questions about the human condition. [Even if the ending is, predictably, totally doo-lally.]

      • dominicwells November 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

        I like the way you’ve internetised your blog (if that’s a word!). I’m maybe still a little too old media in my presentation. I’ll think on’t. Anyway, I’ve pressed your Follow button. Look forward to reading more.

    • arnie November 12, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

      Even more interesting, the digital number on the dashboard in the truck stopped at 39 just outside the secret NASA site. Was this an easter egg or a subtle shoutout to the song?

      • dominicwells November 12, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

        Wow, well observed!

      • arnie November 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

        Actually, I told my daughter about the song before she went to see the movie and she noticed the dashboard in the scene. I saw the movie after her and I probably would have missed it had I not been looking for it. Maybe it’s all coincidence, but it’s more fun to think otherwise. 🙂

  2. BK November 10, 2014 at 3:10 am #

    “Write your letters in the sand for the day I take your hand
    In the land that our grandchildren knew”

    Wow… now that just about sums up the conclusion.

    • dominicwells November 10, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      Strange isn’t it? Especially the letters in the sand bit. Wonder if it was a deliberate homage or just accidental.

  3. snowdog74 November 15, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    You nailed it on all points about the song 39. May, who published his PhD thesis in astrophysics in 2007, titled “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud”, certainly intended his vision to be about a traveler across space-time lamenting a loved one who is long gone…. Major points to you for being one of the few who observed the “Milky seas” being the first clue, rather than “many years away”… as “Milky seas” makes no sense in an Earthbound context!

    INTERSTELLAR definitely resonates closely with Brian May’s 39, which I had the pleasure of seeing performed live in Dallas this past year by May and company. However, if there’s a plagiarism complaint to be lodged, it should probably be lodged by William Eubank whose 2011 movie, LOVE, is almost identical in scope and structure… including the interviews of Earth’s last survivors, the bootstrap paradox and the fifth dimensional climax, among other things/themes….

    • dominicwells November 15, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      Interesting, thanks! Love passed me by (the movie, that is!); I’ll seek it out.

  4. guypassy March 13, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    I was on a month long Queen bender prior to seeing the movie and I hadn’t really thought about the meaning of the song until I was in the theater watching Interstellar.
    The clincher for me is the line “your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me”.
    He’s not singing to his wife, the love of his life… He’s singing to his daughter!
    The line in the chorus, “in the land that our grandchildren knew” doesn’t contradict the theory. It’s been 100 years, his daughter has given him grandchildren, and she even has grandchildren of her own (to say the least, i mean 100 years!).

    Ah, but so sad, just like the movie. “For my life still ahead; Pity me.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Arrival: thank God (or alien equivalent) for sci-fi with a brain | London, Hollywood - November 13, 2016

    […] in 2014, and its brain was pretty small: the whole film seemed based, as I wrote at the time, on a Queen song, while its striking time-dilation planet scene will be familiar to any fan, as Nolan is, of the […]

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