‘High Life’ and ‘First Man’ Look to the Stars and See Very Different Galaxies

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Some of the scientists-slash-investors who are trying to make space travel possible for the common man (most famously, Elon Musk) argue that what motivates their risky and potentially futile efforts is the wish to save mankind from itself. Seeing our planet from high up, as a fragile, little blue ball, could remind people that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Movies have felt this interstellar pressure to sit down and be humble for generations: The astronauts of 2001: A Space Odyssey are as threatened by their onboard AI as they are by the darkness of deep space, and Matthew McConaughey cries when Skyping with his son back on Earth in Interstellar because he realizes the distance, in space and time, between him and his family. In cinema, the vastness of space, ironically, can make people feel more grounded as they reconsider what truly matters in life and in the universe. That is, when standing on top of the world doesn’t give you vertigo.

Manuela Lazicessay, ringer, TIFF18