Friday, October 11, 2013

Earth Is Home - My thoughts on Alfonso Cuaron's 'Gravity'

'Gravity' blew my f*cking mind away!

To say that the film is extra ordinary would be doing it a disservice. It's mind-bending. Ever since cinema was invented there's been this pursuit of making the experience more immersive for the viewer, wanting to give them an almost first hand experience to make them feel the surroundings, situations and atmosphere that the characters on screen are feeling in the story. Alfonso Cuaron does this frighteningly well in Gravity.

So well in fact that watching these two astronauts repair a hubble space telescope in the acutely hostile vacuum of space thousands of kilometers high in the opening scenes I expected my ears to "pop" every time I swallowed. At multiple occasions as a character cart wheeled out of control I felt nauseous with a hint of vertigo. For about 90 minutes you the viewer is in space with the central characters. Every thrilling moment shall keep you on the edge. The use of 3D is spectacular, the visual effects (especially developed for this film) are absolutely breath taking, the sound design one of a kind. But I am not writing this to elaborate on those, there are innumerable reviews you'd find online which would do that for you.

I love it when any work of art reminds me how lucky we are to get to experience life, how if we took a few moments everyday to just look around and appreciate how we are a part of a meticulously structured universe which stretches far beyond our eyes can see, whose vastness knows no bounds probably we'd be much more thankful and humble. Gravity is a story of two astronauts lost in space where every breath is literally costing them their life. All they want is to get back home. Home is not a country, not a city, not a street. 'Home' in this context is the earth. Their yearning for breathable air and walkable ground made me think twice about how we take those commodities for granted. None of that technical wizardry would be of any merit if the film also didn't have a soul. which it does in plentiful. For a few minutes Gravity made me feel glad that we call the earth our home. Time and again while watching I was reminded of the fantastic Carl Sagan video of 'The Pale Blue Dot' (link below).

(Mild spoilers ahead)

A few scenes/images stuck in my mind from 'Gravity':-

After a staggering and violent struggle with the flowing debris in space when Sandra Bullock's character Ryan finally finds her way inside the space shuttle she takes off her space suit and curls up in a fetal position with the wires around giving the illusion of an umbilical cord (you see a glimpse of it in the trailer below at 01:44). It is a beautiful shot, and possibly signifies the 'rebirth' of Ryan after this close shave with death and/or how there is an innate innocence present in the emotion of human triumph or that the moment you find a safe haven it's reminiscent of the extreme safety and enclosure of a mother's womb.

Another image that fascinated me was when Ryan finds a picture of Jesus on top of the control panel of the Russian space station. The reason why it fascinates me is because our idea of God/Higher power/Supreme being has always been that He's "Up there" beyond the skies and the fact that these astronauts, these learned men & women of science who dare to go "Up there" also carry with them a sliver of faith even though science and religion are presented to be often at odds.

When Ryan is asked what is it that she loves about being in space she replies "The silence. I could get used to it", but later on in the film as she is stranded alone with absolutely no one to communicate with she desperately tries to make radio contact and finds a distorted Chinese signal of a man singing a lullaby to his dog. At that moment she tries in whatever way she can to communicate with this man, going as far as mimicking the dog. It's a heartbreaking moment reminding us that we're slaves to contact, to communication, to company.

There are many more that had an impact on me but for the rest I recommend you watch the film yourself and make your own deductions :)   

P.S:- If you like 'Gravity' please read Ray Bradbury's short story 'Kaleidoscope'


Anonymous said...

Read it because damn I LOVED this movie but that was an image of St. Christopher which I found to be even MORE powerful.

Abbas Momin said...

Thank you for reading. It is a brilliant work of cinema and yes that is a picture of St. Christopher carrying a baby Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Really nice review ! - jagan

Ashwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashwin Chandrasekaran said...

Thanks for this review, man. This is a very passionately and meticulously made film. I don't know why I don't see enough people give this movie credit. I can't sit back and passively watch a movie. I enjoy it; and I hope everyone does the same.

I'm going to space again! :D

Abbas Momin said...

Thank you so much Jagan & Ashwin. Well at least I hope this film will be a game changer & make Hollywood realize that 3D tech can be used for much more than making things pop out of the screen and breaking down sky scrapers.