When I pressed “play” on Interstellar, I had no idea that I was about to have one of the most powerful emotional experiences of my movie-watching life. Sure, subconsciously I took into consideration that I would cry at the end of the movie. Maybe. I was not prepared to legitimately cry near the starting, in the middle, at the climax (multiple places), and at the resolution (in two places). On top of that, I was not expecting to experience emotion that was that raw. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced emotion that raw from a movie.
I was not alone.
So what in the world did the Nolan brothers do?
Well, a few things.
Last time I talked about how pairing/crossing opposites can make a story more powerful. It’s because of the breadth. It’s the breadth between extremes that enables the audience to feel emotions more powerfully.
We tend to think that if we want to write a story that hits a particular emotion powerfully, that we have a lot of scenes that hit that emotion. So if we want a story that makes people cry, we might think of having most of the story made up of tragic scenes. But the audience actually experiences stronger, raw-er feelings, when you contrast emotions. Tragic scenes become more powerful when we have humorous scenes.
It all gets back to writing with foils. (You can read my post on foils here). When we pair opposites, we create contrast–we are pulling the audience from one extreme to the other.
We are yanking them from one end of the spectrum to the other, and all that breadth they travel makes the experience feel sharper. (David Farland did a post on this once by the way.) It’s like going from hot water to cold. The cold feels colder because we just experienced the hot.
Interstellar does this beautifully.
First though, let’s talk about the kinds of emotion Interstellar evokes, because Interstellar elicits powerful emotions. The movie is emotional not just in the I’m-about-to-cry sense, but its emotional in that it evokes a variety of contrasting emotions and evokes them in a strong way
Here are some of the main emotions that I see: Continue reading Gaining Incredible Emotional Power by Crossing Opposites