A film about everything, nothing and everything in between, we think Gravity is one of the best films of this or any age.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Gravity is one of the greatest films of this, or any other age. It ranks surely as one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of our time. Here is a film that, in 90 minutes, explores space, time and matter, offering us a brief but brazen glimpse of the literally awesome universe which we live in. It is one that we will never fully understand, and Gravity, more so than anything else, is testament to that fact. In a blend of the most daring and exquisite visuals and effects ever presented on screen, we are delivered a profound film, and an important one.
Gravity is a film about everything and nothing and everything in between. It is a film about life since the dawn of time
There are theories circulating around what Gravity is actually ‘about’. Some say nothing, that it’s an exercise in style; others argue that it’s about lead character Ryan Stone’s (Sandra Bullock) parallel collision with both the universe and her past. There is weight behind both of these arguments, because what Gravity’s really about is everything – it’s about everything and nothing and everything in between. It is a film about life, not just ours but life since the dawn of time. It is about life as it is about death, and the overriding emotion when watching the film is one of mortality, of what it all means when we are forced to confront existence.
Gravity forces us to ask big questions of which we will never know the answer, and that’s where its genius lies – we cannot comprehend our existence and nor can the characters. They are floating in time but are no closer to knowing why we exist in it. They can see the Earth, but not why we’re on it. What they also cannot comprehend is the universe they (we) are in; they are isolated in the interstellar, quite literally lost in space.
Alfonso Cuarón’s film proves that we are specks, ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. This is presented as a blessing, though, and coming away from Gravity should leave one feeling privileged to have lived on the planet it was created on. The universe is displayed as something mysterious and remarkable – something really quite beautiful. Our ethereal time on it is to be marvelled at. We exist because it exists, and Gravity adheres to the awe with which we should look at the world.
That we fleetingly exist in the universe before we don’t anymore is beautiful, and Gravity understands that
Consider the scene in which George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski is untethered, thus drifting through the atmosphere to his death. His simple remark is that “it’s beautiful, isn’t it?” People who misjudge the film may see this as cloying, but the fact remains that Kowalski is addressing ideas of existence that a lesser film would ignore. His statement can be seen as both an observation of the planetary wonder he will die above and as a salutation to morality. That we will fleetingly exist in the universe before we don’t anymore is beautiful, and Gravity understands that.
The film, despite being one of destruction and catastrophe, is steeped in positivity. It is, in parts, an ode to the power of life. There are also connotations to be made with the idea of absurdism and, that what happens, happens not because it deserves to or because fate allows it to, but because it just happens. It happens because we are in the universe and that’s what the universe does – that’s where the absurdity lies.
It is in the face of death that Gravity reaches its greatest levels of profundity. Consider another scene, this time concerning Stone as she sits in her pod, realising there is no fuel left and that she is more than likely going to die alone in space. She remarks that everybody is going to die, that she knows this but didn’t think it would be today (conjuring up similarities with those powerful lines from Larkin’s Aubade, a poem which has nothing to do with space but everything to do with death: “unresting death/a whole day nearer now”).
Gravity is not so much a film as it is a moment, one in which we question the only important things there are to really question
Though tearful, Stone – in an astonishing performance by Sandra Bullock – begins to regard death as part of the process, greeting it with a graceful lament, delivering to the universe the respect it has demanded of her. She considers it what Donald Rumsfeld might refer to as a “known known” (an often mocked speech, but one that brilliantly distils complex material). This is life as a ‘ride’ (Bill Hicks’s “it’s just a ride” quote could’ve been used as Gravity’s tag line), and Stone, in knowing hers is about to end, willingly slams on the brakes. It is only later, when hope is hinted at, that she reverts and attempts to bring about her escape – the transient ideology of the ride will last a little longer.
If I haven’t been specific about the film, about the cast or crew or visuals – which deserve articles all to themselves – then it’s because Gravity is more than a sum of its parts. It is not so much a film as it is a moment, one in which we question the only important things there are to really question, and, as the film’s closing images present Stone crawling out of the water and into the mud, like an evolutionary diagram of the tadpole becoming Man, we do indeed question them. We question them safe in the knowledge that we have been sapped by the space scene we have just sat through, and dwarfed by the universe we sat through it in.
All images: Warner Bros