Horizon at Sandy Point

Saturday, March 29, 2014


By the end of the movie Gravity, we are grateful for the weight of our own limbs. What this means is, we are grateful for the force of the Earth pressing up through our feet, articulating blood, muscles, giving the heart reason for its rhythmic beat.

Outside of our natural environment, 600 km above the surface of Earth, we confront the nature of need. Out there, emptiness has a different meaning. Perhaps, it means freedom, without ties. Out there, there is no life support that can replace the mother Earth.

"At 600km above planet Earth, the temperature fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit. There is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible." reads the caption card at the start of the the film.

See trailer here:

The man and woman - encased in white survival suits and helmets, working outside the craft -  are bouncing around tied to a flimsy structure that is itself buffeted and rattling like a weather vane in solar wind.

For 90 minutes, we witness the struggles of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in space, without air, without life support, without gravity.  There are, they believe,  compensations for working so far out they can see the curve of the blue planet. For Kowalski, the Earth is  serenely beautiful seen from this far. He is in awe of the shimmer of sunrise on the Ganges. Stone loves the silence, the emptiness that is vaster than the emptiness in her heart.

When their craft is thrashed by debris orbiting the earth - bits and pieces from end of life satellites - they face the possibility of becoming other random pieces of space garbage. To be or not to be means simply, living til you die. Kowalski makes the first choice. He instructs Stone to swing towards the other orbiting space stations, and then to use one of their re-entry pods: "You just point the damned thing at Earth. It's not rocket science."

We all wish for  escapes every so often, to be unfettered, untethered, to drift in solar wind. Sure, sometimes, to stand on the earth is real pressure. Gravity is a homecoming, a descent from the stars, a rebirth and a reality check. 

I watched Gravity in the same week that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is declared lost. I think that those 239 persons could not have been grateful for gravity, or even a soft landing in one of earth's most turbulent oceans.

Gravity won seven Oscars, and was the Best Motion Picture of the year for both Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Here's a note from IMDb:
To prepare for shooting, Sandra Bullock spent six months in physical training while reviewing the script with Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón said, "More than anything else, we were just talking about the thematic element of the film, the possibility of rebirth after adversity." They worked out how she would perform each scene, and her notes were included the previsual animation and programming for the robots. Cuarón and Bullock zeroed in on Stone's breath, "and how that breath was going to dictate her emotions," he said. "That breath that is connected with stress in some instances, but also the breath that is dictated by lack of oxygen." Their conversations covered every detail of the script and Bullock's character. "She was involved so closely in every single decision throughout the whole thing," Cuarón said. "And it was a good thing, because once we started prepping for the shoot, it was almost more like a dance routine, where it was one-two-three left, left, four-five-six then on the right. She was amazing about the blocking and the rehearsal of that. So when we were shooting, everything was just about truthfulness and emotion." James Cameron, best friend of Cuarón and a huge fan of the film, said "She's the one that had to take on this unbelievable challenge to perform it. (It was) probably no less demanding than a Cirque du Soleil performer, from what I can see. There's an art to that, to creating moments that seem spontaneous but are very highly rehearsed and choreographed. Not too many people can do it. ... I think it's really important for people in Hollywood to understand what was accomplished here."

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