Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Gravity of Gravity

Last night, I went to see Gravity, a film by Alfonso Cuarón .  He directed Children of Men, which is a movie I am proud to own and blew me away when I first saw it.  It felt like a master class in filmmaking because of what it accomplished in single takes and the story was so fresh, new and frightening.  But, nothing can really prepare you for Gravity.  It is an experience unlike any other one I have had in a movie theater.

A lot has been written about how long it took to make and the technology designed and implemented to finish it.  What Cuarón accomplished is nothing short of breathtaking.  The film begins with a single shot that lasts for maybe twenty minutes.  There are no cuts and its meandering pace sets the film up beautifully.  Even more, because the scene is so long and there is so much to take in visually, it immerses you in the space of space.  It feels like you are really there with these astronauts because you have the opportunity to take it in as if you were out there with them.  You can compare it to visiting a scenic expanse of land.  When you get there, you are in awe.  You breathe and look all around your surroundings and you have the time to do so. You want to interact with those surroundings, have it absorb you and become one with it.  The opening shots of Gravity accomplish that same feeling except it is a place very, very few of us will ever see.  We are privileged to be there for 90 intense minutes where 3D is not used as a gimmick.  It is used to allow you to feel what it might be like to spin, dive and drop out of control in space.

Gravity also manages to make you feel very, very scared.  It constantly teases you by showing Earth from so far away, yet you can't get back to it.  In this film, outer space itself is a horrifying place all on  its own.  You don't need aliens or black-clad enemies to accomplish a sense of dread and doom.  Just being alone in a place that is unforgiving and impossible to live in without technology is enough to give you nightmares if you really think about it.  There is a line, where Ryan, Sandra Bullock's character, tells Kowalski (Clooney) that the silence of space is her favorite part of it.  Yet, as she delivers that line, there really isn't all that much silence as Earth is constantly communicating with them via radio.  That silence, or void, doesn't become so ironic and damning until shit falls apart and that happens very quickly.  What Ryan thought she loved so much becomes terrifying and crippling.

The very concept of being alone is brought to new levels as well.  We have all been alone, obviously. But, being utterly alone in space, thousands and thousands of miles from this orb we live on, is profound.  There is no safe place you can go.  In our lives, we have people and places we can go to for comfort.  We can hug someone or cry on their shoulder.  We have oases to make us feel better about things.  In Gravity, that option doesn't exist.  Instead, there are only things that can physically hurt you or you are left to your own devices to mentally hurt yourself and give in to the concept of death.  The imagined "alone" in Gravity is one of the most terrifying aspects of it, yet it is something (thankfully) many of us will never feel.  Our fears of being alone, living alone and dying alone are exploited in such a visceral manner, you almost want to grab someone after the movie is over and say, "I am here!  And, so are you!  Let's make the most of this shit simply because we are not fucking alone."  That is something I have never felt after seeing a movie because there has never been a film like this one.

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