By now, Christopher Nolan has established himself as the “new Spielberg.” From our perspective, this passing of the mantle is a tremendous improvement.
We shouldn’t discount Steven Spielberg’s craft and the depth of his better films; however, Nolan’s aesthetic—expressed in imagery, setting, and especially acting and writing—demonstrates an unmistakable sense of hierarchy, reserve, decorum, and magnanimity; this was doubtlessly gained from his more class-conscious English background.
No better is this demonstrated than with the character of Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Alfred is, as we know, a faithful manservant. Nevertheless, he is a deeply respected, wiser elder.1 Alfred’s acceptance of hierarchy and his tireless service is ennobling, rather than degrading.
Americans might call the trappings and ambience of Nolan’s films—along with his dizzying, Escherian plots—pretentious. And they are, in a way that makes his predecessor, Spielberg, vulgar in comparison. Nolan’s influence on American cinema, like that of countryman Alfred Hitchcock, has been thoroughly civilizing.
Moreover, Nolan’s films deal with themes that are not only profound in their own right but are of central importance to us, even if he doesn’t always reach the conclusions we might want him to. The credence and power he affords these perspectives (which he must nevertheless obligingly demonize) speaks to Nolan’s magnanimity . . . and maybe even a suppressed longing to be something closer to us. The least we can say is that he is quite willing to entertain heretical thoughts . . . sometimes very heretical thoughts.
The most obvious example of this is in the tension he builds between the ostensibly neoconish Batman and The League of Shadows in his Dark Knight Trilogy. The League of Shadows seeks to overthrow a society it deems corrupt, embodied by crime-ridden Gotham City. At first blush, The League might seem to be on the left end of Jean-Pierre Faye’s “political horseshoe,” something like a a comic-book version of Occupy Wall Street.
Yet the League of Shadows is driven by an esoteric motive, one the Occupy movement most definitely does not share. The degeneracy and sickness of western societies—not their economic inequality—is one of The League of Shadows primary hatreds; Occupy, so far as anyone can discern, was dedicated to a more equitable redistribution of degeneracy.
Perhaps fundamentalist Islam is The League of Shadow’s closest analog. In fact, Ra’s al Ghul (played by Liam Nesson in the film) is envisioned in the comics as a scimitar-wielding demon-prophet first arising in the Arabian desert 600 years ago; in other words, he’s a Mohammedan figure. Hence, in The Dark Knight Rises, we see Islam, cloaked disingenuously in the rabble-rousing egalitarianism of Bane, rising to overthrow the West.
The wealthy Bruce Wayne is, for his part, depicted faithfully by Nolan as a man of colonial-stock aristocrat.2 And this too, naturally, is wont to appeal to us. Wayne, even if ultimately an oligarch governing and defending a degenerate society, is depicted in ethnicity, bearing, and style as a vestige of a higher, older Anglo-Saxon culture.
We are even more drawn to Wayne when we learn about his deeper political sympathies. In The Dark Knight, he doesn’t bat an eye as District Attorney candidate Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), understanding the need to crack down on crime in Gotham, articulates the idea that, in some moments, it is necessary for a dictator to assume power. “When their enemies were at the gates,” Dent says in defense of both Batman and strong political leadership, “the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. It wasn't considered an honor, it was considered a public service.”
Far from disagreeing, Wayne appears moved and enthusiastically throws his support behind Dent. Even if Dent is Gotham City’s “Giuliani”-a tough figure who seeks to quell an inherently unstable multicultural city—we can enjoy his striking political incorrectness, and also the ultimate direction this sentiment points.
Most importantly of all, Nolan seems to be acknowledging the concept of the Kyklos, the traditional cyclical notion of history. Indeed, it is explicitly referenced in Batman Begins by Ra’s al Ghul. Batman is the hero, but as a sort of Buckleyian, rear-guardist sense—“standing athwart history, yelling stop.” Simply the notion of civilizational decline—put forth in a period of civilizational decline, when all mainstream institutions assert fanatically that we continue on an upward course of “progress”—is, in itself, subversive. This is not changed by the fact that it comes from the mouth of a comic-book villain.
And then there is the “gothic” setting of “Gotham” itself, which is understood in the comics to have essentially been a Gothic Cathedral writ large. Here, Batman functions as one of its gargoyles, intimidating and punishing sinners. This alone makes Batman ripe for traditionalist treatments, especially for a positioning of the West versus Islam. The “noir” look and tone of most all Batman films—along with what is called “Goth” in popular culture—ultimately arises from the horror fiction produced in the Age of Enlightenment, characterized by an unease with a more masculine and barbaric Medieval past. The bawdier venality and degeneracy of Gotham in Batman’s universe should also be understood, in this context, as pointing very likely to the feelings of Batman’s creators vis-à-vis the Catholic Church and Christianity generally.
The Persistence of Memory
In Nolan’s early film Memento (2000), co-written with his brother Jonathan, an important metaphor appears. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers from the condition ofanterograde amnesia, short-term memory loss or the inability to create new memories. Leonard is thus caught in an endless, repeated limbo, constantly trying to recollect his past and identity. His only “memories” are random jottings, tattoos, and Polaroids. In this state, he becomes a puppet of Teddy Gammell (Joe Pantoliano) and seeks retribution upon an imagined enemy, one who may not have actually harmed him.
In the end, Memento is a film about the danger of losing one’s memory and thereby being reduced to a passive and degenerate state, incapable of a sense of purpose or even self-motivation and therefore only activated by motivations given to one externally. In some odd and almost certainly incidental way, which the then younger and less wise Nolan brothers perhaps chanced upon by good instinct, it is a deeply traditionalist message. Ancient Europeans believed that the written word destroys the oral tradition, and thus the cultural and ethnic memory served by it; we can only assume this to be true tenfold with the case or television and movies.
In 2014, one is reminded of mainstream European-Americans (and especially Christian-Zionists), hopelessly severed from the stabilizing traditions of their European roots and addicted to the memory-destroying media, which simultaneously hops them up with animus against persons or peoples they have no natural cause to hate. At one point Leonard says: “If we can't make memories, we can't heal.” In John Boorman’s 1981 traditionalist’s epic, Excalibur, Merlin (Nicol Williamson) says it better: “It is the doom of men that they forget.” Memento also shows the danger of presuming to exploit such a culture-less and yet enflamed creature. For Leonard will eventually turn on his manipulator, Teddy.
In Memento there is repeated reference to Gideon’s Bible, which Leonard reads “religiously.” When it is shown, the lens focuses on the passage: “an eye for an eye.” Hence, religion (or even the written record of a history, mystical or otherwise) does not serve as a symbol of memory but rather, at best, something fragmentary, invariably taken out of context.
It’s possible also that Nolan is making a commentary on the vengeful First Testament versus the merciful Second, which presumably Leonard will never have time to read. Or perhaps Nolan is positing the Bible as a symbol of forgetfulness rather than memory.3
Regardless, Nolan takes a much less cynical view of religion in later works. Indeed, Christianity, at least as it operates as a metaphor, plays a major role in Interstellar.
What Dreams Are Made of
Inception (2010) is about dreams . . . and dreams within dreams. Here, Nolan develops another another important leitmotif that will define his oeuvre, that of the “Dream-Makers.” In the world of Inception, Dominick Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio) and his confederates literally enter the subconscious of willing and unwilling subjects. Their fictional profession seems to be an allegory for filmmakers, artists, and philosophers, as well as advertisers and propagandists. These are the ones who implant ideas into the subconscious of others, or even the shared collective subconscious. There is also the wonderful notion that the deeper, more profound and impactful the idea, the more risk an artist or thinker takes in its “inception,” and the cleverer and more masterful he must be—risking even being mired endlessly in the dream itself. Indeed, the film contains the useful understanding that this “inception” must ultimately be made to resonate emotionally with its subject. Perhaps Radix’s readership thinks especially of the New Right and its travails in a similar manner?
In Inception, it is curious to see that it is the objective of the Dream-Makers (Cobb’s team is “extractors”) to inspire the dissolution of a Western energy conglomerate for the benefit of an Asian competitor, a company headed by Saito (played by Ken Watanabe). In a way, Cobb and his team—a band of thieves and criminals, though charming ones—seem to be acting in the stead of The League of Shadows: they are working toward the dissolution of a Western Civilizational (even if only economically). So we see . . . cryptically, implicitly . . . that devious part of Nolan’s again, that part that takes the side of the The League of Shadows.
There might be an even more obscure message embedded in the film. The object of Cobb’s “inception,” and in whose mind the lion’s share of the film takes places, is Robert Fischer, the son of energy tycoon Maurice Fisher and heir of the monopolistic energy conglomerate Fischer Morrow. The name Fischer is frequently, though not exclusively, Ashkenazi, and the most famous real-life Robert Fischer is, of course, the chess champion Bobby Fischer, a Jew, through his mother’s side, who became anti-Semitic in his later years. Is this reference to Judaism, and to the real-life Bobby Fischer, deliberate?
There is another character, Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is the “Dream Architect”; she is responsible for fashioning the dreamscape in order to deceive Fischer. She carries as her “totem,” perhaps meaningfully, a chess piece; quite a symbolic choice with respect to Robert/Bobby Fischer. Second, there is an angle-dependent, yet striking resemblance between Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and the younger Bobby Fischer (a quick Google image search reveals this).
The intention here, assuming the reference is deliberate, may simply be to indicate the great challenge that Cobb’s team faces vis-à-vis a mind as formidable as “Bobby” Fischer’s, which has been trained to prevent “inception.” Certainly such an explanation would serve as a credible alibi. Then again, information on Bobby Fischer is a mouse click away, and Nolan, who doubtlessly seems intent on “incepting” deeper messages, strikes one, at this point in his career, as more careful, thorough, and deliberate in his choices, and aspiring to understand all dimensions and implications of them.
Indeed, the message maybe deeper. To wit, in the manner that Robert Fischer went his own way in Inception, dissolving his father’s company, so certainly did the real life Bobby Fischer, rejecting and thereby dissolving his own heritage. It is interesting here to see essentially a caricature of Adorno’s “Authoritarian Personality” type, a critique Kevin MacDonald suggests was designed primarily to demoralize Gentiles, applied to Robert Fischer’s father, Maurice, who, to the extent Robert is intended as a Jew, is likewise intended.4
In real terms, Maurice, however he is depicted, is simply desirous of the continued power and success of his lineage, an idea especially prominent in the company name Fischer Morrow. Yet he is conjured here as loveless and cold, capable only of uttering to his son on his deathbed a single word: “disappointed.” And this loveless relationship is seen as a chink in Robert’s emotional armor by the team of “inceptors,” as perhaps Frankfurt School thinkers likewise saw a similar perceived loveless-ness between father and son as a vulnerability in the minds of Europeans.
If it was Nolan’s intention to deliberately reference Bobby Fischer, and specifically his rejection of Judaism, or simply to hold up the “Fischers” as Jewish types, it seems possible that he is likewise cryptically signaling for the dissolution of monopolistic Jewish economic and cultural power (which at this point is almost synonymous with Western economic and cultural power). Here, one is reminded of Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s chastisement of Gollum and many others who find it impossible to resist the ring of (wealth and) power.
If all this were so, it would also lend credence to the notion of a comparably subtle and long-honed anti-Semitism among Europeans in general and Englishmen in particular, at least vis-a-vis the relatively less sophisticated Americans. It also reveals an ability, scarcely seen in Americans, to engage in ethnic competition sub rosa. It would also indicate that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have, like the artful team of “inceptors,” gone quite deep, even under the nose of a Jewish producers and studio heads, to “incept” a likewise deeply subliminal idea.
And yet despite these two important examples, Interstellar is doubtlessly Nolan’s greatest and most mature work to date, and therefore most worthy of our analysis.
A Crypto-Christian Epic
It is, of course, a mistake to view Interstellar as a racialist or “right-wing” film. Yes, Nolan is, quite admirably, calling for a return to nobler virtues embodied in the great explorers of the Age of Discovery and the American Astronauts of a more recent period. Though beyond this explicit message lies a crypto-Christian allegory.
Here, it seems, Nolan is implicitly endorsing Christianity as the faith of the West, intrinsically bound to it, as its bedrock even, and as a necessary or inevitable part of cultural, civilizational, and even scientific renewal, much as Spengler fastened Christianity to The West through his coinage of “Faustian.” And Nolan optimistically seems to be signaling for a Faustian Indian Summer, if not the appearance of a new Faustian Age all together. Here are the clues.
Quite explicitly, there is a Christian theme of death and renewal (or resurrection), of which even the characters in the film are cognizant. They have named their missions, which are intended to save all mankind, Lazarus missions. Nolan also slyly follows James Cameron in The Terminator; both give their protagonist the initials of Jesus Christ—John Conner and James Cooper, respectively.
And there is also doubtlessly a reference to Christ’s (and Dionysus’, Balder’s or Adonis’) pre-resurrection descent into the underworld or hell, seen especially in Copper’s disappearance into the black hole. In this myth, it is understood that Christ’s resurrection and apotheosis (as is the case with his pagan equivalents) is only possible by his suffering and gaining of wisdom in hell. Likewise, this is the case with Cooper.
Additionally, Cooper becomes a sort of Holy Father in Heaven (or Space), contrasted with Murphy, an Earth Mother or Mary, both daughter and, as it will be revealed, mother and liberator of Christ (Cooper). To wit, Murphy is virginally “impregnated” by the Spirit, Message, and Word of God, as the Catholic Nun is, and thereby becomes the mother of the world as well as the mother of Cooper, The Savior, who is also reborn by her efforts.
There is also something unmistakably “Rapture”-like and “world-denying” in mankind’s abandonment of earth and ascent into the heavens. Lastly, we see the Adam and Eve myth conjured, with marooned Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) awaiting James Cooper, to repopulate a new planet, though with the help of innumerable pre-fertilized embryos.
Perhaps you are tempted to retort, “to hell with symbolism!” After all, the Christian symbolism is derived in large part from Pagan symbolism, which was used to convert Pagans to Christianity. Hence, why can’t Nolan’s symbolism be interpreted as Pagan and Nietzschean and Cooper, as a sort of a White Pagan savior? And additionally, who is to say Nolan is not merely using Christian symbolism as a metaphor? Might he be endorsing a scientific revival—one that would doubtlessly be post-Christian?
The reason for this ultimately lay outside of symbolism and is found in Nolan’s treatment of race in the film. This is made unequivocal when Brand, with a modern piety that is presumed to have survived a period of great dearth, happily reveals the fertilized eggs that have been cultivated to populate the new extraterrestrial worlds have been made deliberately diverse in genetic makeup. We understand the intended specific meaning of this in today’s context and know that this refers to more than brunettes and blondes. Alas, Space travel will not be the White flight “racists” have dreamt it be.
How does this make Nolan’s film a Christian film? Cooper’s goal is far from an ethnic or particularistic one, rather it is a Catholic one, and by Catholic, we also mean universal and globalist. To wit, Cooper will save all of humanity. And thus Cooper, like the Christ for whom he was named, is ultimately a “caretaker” to the world, despite his memorable words to the contrary. This contrasts sharply with Darren Aronofsky’s tribal Noah, where only Noah and his family, understood as proto-Jews, survive a worldwide cataclysm, whilst the Orcish non-Jews are subsumed. Importantly, the earth is retained and Noah’s descendants inherit it.
Collapse, as depicted in Interstellar, is a presumed to be a “man-made” environmental disaster, and not a man-made corruption of the spirit and moral sensibility. In other words, the causes are more Jared Diamond than Edward Gibbon. Donald (John Lithgow), Copper’s father-in-law, drops the primary hint: “But we made a lot of mistakes. Six billion people. Just try to imagine that. Every last one of them trying to have it all.” Add to that the footage from Ken Burn’s documentary The Dust Bowl, a film greatly admired by Nolan, which instructs us that the Dust Bowl was “man-made.” In other words, environmentalism becomes adopted as part and parcel of a larger crypto-Christian outlook in the same manner Darren Aronofsky folded environmentalism into Judaism in Noah. Yet in Noah, the sinless Noah is absolved of the sin of environmental destruction, whereas in Interstellar, humans are held responsible and, through Cooper, take responsibility. In any case, Nolan’s environmental collapse, as Spielberg’s in A.I. and Aronofsky’s in Noah, smells slightly of an eschatology obsessed with disasters, and the notion that man alone causes them.
Certainly, we—of all people—should be environmentalists and should be aware of the risks humanity poses to the natural world. After all, we understand, appreciate, and need nature on a spiritual level. Yet we should also recognize the use of environmentalism by our political adversaries as a distraction, much in the manner of abortion or gay marriage.
Indeed, environmentalism is used by the political Left much in the way their mystic forebears unconsciously used prophecies of eschatological disasters—a collective, non-human boogeyman everyone is obliged to fixate on so that attention is distracted away from them and their more secretive agendas. And when the rubber hits the road, and third-world immigration is correctly identified as a “sustainability” problem, we find where their true motives and loyalties lie.
Indeed, to ignore race, and America’s fuzzy-headed notion of it, is to ignore the central problem that is leading us to the sort of societal collapse envisioned in Interstellar. We are turning the West into a new third world and destroying our planet because we are, with an overgenerous squandering of our great Faustian advancements, saving, advancing, fueling, transporting, feeding, and thereby expanding dysgenic third worlds, at the expense of our own and, as depicted in Interstellar, at the expense of the natural world. It is, of course, unsustainable. And the seed of this wrongheadedness lives in our most prestigious minds, among whom Nolan may now count himself.
We might prefer that Nolan had abstained from directing scenes like that in The Dark Knight, when golden-hearted African convicts teach lessons in Kantian morality to craven and hypocritical White people. But maybe—who knows?—Nolan’s fuzziness on race is a conscious idea inception to help hurry on the collapse, so that renewal may follow? This is, of course, wildly unlikely. Rather Nolan’s sentimental scenes seems sincere; at worst—or best?—they are the standard, cynical, politically correct gestures of obedience one expects of any Hollywood director.
Nolan is—much like Vladimir Putin (for now), Nicholas Wade, and the best people “above ground”—a mixed bag . . . though, nevertheless, a positive development. Perhaps developing events, as well as praise and constructive criticism, will help him become something greater than he is.
Curmudgeons, for whom nothing and no one is ever good enough, will attract scant friends. Hence, we are obliged to see the good in people, to see their potential, and not simply dwell on their inadequacies or compromises. And if we cannot sway the Nolans, Putins, and Wades of the world, there will be more artists, scientists, and statesmen who will go even further, who will build on the laudable aspects of these men’s works and incept even riskier and deeper ideas into the collective dream. We, who live in the deepest part of the subconscious, here in the “id,” the most honest part of the Web, are obliged to make certain of this. And we must do some inception of our own.
- One sees similar relationships depicted among Tolkien’s Hobbits, particularly between Samwise and “Master” Baggins, if perhaps captured less well by Peter Jackson, who errs on the side of histrionics. ↩
- In the comics, Jewish creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane took special pains to Anglicize and Americanize Bruce Wayne, deriving his surname from “Mad” Anthony Wayne. His ancestral backstory eventually indicates that he was descended of a brother of the revolutionary officer. Anthony Wayne’s father was descended of Protestant Anglo-Irish family. ↩
- More trivially, it may also be a reference to the Beatle’s Song “Rocky Raccoon,” which likewise features a vengeful protagonist, contemplating Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room before a planed murder on someone who has stolen his wife. ↩
- The point is not being made that the personal life of Robert Fischer in Inception in any way mirrors the real personal life of Bobby Fischer, who was neither the heir of an energy conglomerate nor the son of a domineering father. Indeed, the identity of Bobby Fischer’s absentee father is, in fact, obscure. Indeed, it is possible that this abandonment and rejection, rather than an “authoritarian” father figure, more than anything else relates to Fischer’s rejection of his Judaism. But here we enter into the realm of idle wondering and fruitless pop psychology and we are obliged to be less presumptuous than the Frankfort School. ↩