TENET (2020)

The cows reverse entropy to discuss Christopher Nolan’s bewilderingly dense sci-fi masterpiece. Part one is a spoiler-free pitch for the movie, while part two explores themes and philosophical issues. Justin argues that the movie is a thematic trilogy with Inception and Interstellar about the evolving nature of parenthood, while Laura makes the case that Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) is the emotional core of the movie. Also covered are: what it is like to interact with time-inverted objects/people, the metaphysics of time and free will, and which confidently delivered obscure line is best. Listen to the end for a recreation of a pivotal scene!

Justin’s diagrams:

Justin’s story about the inverted painting:

You notice something odd in the trash one day. Investigating, you find a number of strips of colored canvas. You pull them out and arrange them on the ground. Suddenly, you feel the urge to destroy the strips. Taking a pair of scissors to the canvas reveals something odd: cutting the strips actually knits them together. Irritated, you cut faster and faster, but the more you cut, the more the canvas connects. One final cut reveals a painting of an old man holding a paintbrush. You marvel at what has happened, but you’re even more intrigued by the painting itself — it’s familiar somehow, so you decide, rather than destroy it, you’ll frame it and put it on the wall. As the years go by, and the painting becomes part of your daily life, the itch to paint grows in you, so you take painting lessons. One day, there’s a knock at the door and someone has left you a box. Inside is a paintbrush and easel unlike any you’ve encountered. When you pick them up, they remind you of the canvas you found so many years ago in your trash. As you bring the paintbrush towards the canvas, you notice for the first time that the paint on the canvas is wet. You bring the brush to dry it, but as you do, the paint rubs off on the brush. Again and again, brush stroke after brush stroke, you paint the paint off the canvas. Eventually, you’re left with a blank canvas, and finally, glancing in the mirror, you realize who it was all along. There’s a knock at the door, and you know what must be done — you put the paintbrush and easel back in the box and hand it to the man at the door, who, without speaking, walks backwards down the street and out of sight.

Don’t get on the chopper if you can’t stop thinking in linear terms.



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