Depicting Otherness: Ridley Scott’s Alien and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar as responsive and allegorical films of their time



This paper aimed to show how Alien and Interstellar depict otherness in different ways, affected by their contexts and commenting on contemporary discourse. Furthermore, this approach was supposed to show how the medium uses distinct vocabulary and a film’s plot to articulate meaning. I focused on the depiction of otherness to prove this thesis and chose scenes that depict this otherness, either by explicitly showing an alien creature or by simply alluding to its presence. These scenes were analysed in previous chapters in regard to their plot and their cinematographic elements. Clearly, both films portray some kind of awakening and react to political and cultural discourses. Alien depicts a fight between the alien and humankind, focusing on battle and commenting on racism, gender and capitalism.  Colour-coding, lighting and composition foreshadow events and add new layers to the film. Interstellar advocates scientific progress and depicts otherness as advanced humankind. The film also comments on gender, but foregrounds humankind as a species that vanquished categories that determine a person’s value. The soundtrack emphasizes hidden aspects of the plot, composition and colours enable the audience to envision what dialogue and events of the plot cannot convey properly. Moreover, Christoper Nolan included scientific knowledge to create a film that also communicates on a meta level. Regarding the reaction to otherness, the films differ. The reaction to the foreign entity in Interstellar is friendly, curious, while Alien depicts a hostile creature that aims to eliminate humankind. This difference does not occur due to regional differences, as both films are Hollywood production and thus share a similar background and were received by similar audiences. I therefore conclude that the depiction of otherness shifted, because the context of the films changed. The same is valid for the depiction of gender, which, as I argued, is also perceived as otherness in Alien. Despite a seemingly progressive character, Alien portrays feminism as something potentially evil and unknown, whereas Interstellar does not differentiate between male and female heroes – both play a significant concerning the happy ending. The contexts of the films influenced the topics and themes as well as the way in which otherness is depicted. Thus, Alien and Interstellar are allegorical films, affected by the time they were produced in and, as both comment on their respective themes, are responsive. They epitomize the concept of film being a medium that can react to contemporary discourses and articulate meaning on various levels.



Alien. Directed by Ridley Scott. Twentieth Century Fox, 1979.

Interstellar. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Paramount Pictures, 2014.


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This term paper was written in 2017 as part of a seminar at the University of Hamburg.

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