Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Poetry in Motion Pictures: Dylan Thomas in Interstellar


Poetry has been making appearances in movies since the advent of motion pictures. Sometimes as a cameo (Yeats in No Country for Old Men), other times as a central plot point (Whitman in Dead Poets Society) and poems inspire titles of films (Dowson in Days of Wine and Roses).

A much talked about film in the waning weeks of 2014 that uses poetry to add textures and layers to a film is Christopher Nolan's blockbuster Interstellar.

The movie, set in a bleak near future, makes use of Dylan Thomas' Do not go gentle into that good night. Sections of the poem are recited throughout the three-hour film by Professor Brand, portrayed by Michael Caine.


Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


— Dylan Thomas


Do not go gentle into that good night was first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951. In the poem Thomas addresses his dying father's diminishing health and urges him to fight on.

The poem has previously been featured on screen in Rodney Dangerfield' Back to School and the forgettable sequel, My Girl 2 and paraphrased in another science-fiction blockbuster, Independence Day.

You can hear Michael Caine recite a portion of Do not go gentle into that good night at 1:46 in the following movie trailer for Interstellar.