Gravity – Throwing you to yourself
“Embrace and celebrate the progress while not letting up the pressure until there is a cure”
– David Benjamin Mixner
Nothing can challenge mankind more than his unpreparedness. What if your normalcy, your established set-up to proceed with your routine, your guaranteed sense of security, everything vanishes, and you are being thrown into a situation where survival is literally impossible unless you act further? More than the situation, the real deal is that you have to accept the sudden change in your direction of living and your priorities with no room even to complain the tragedy that’s taking place. It is actually taking all at a time: seeing the emergency coming, learning the responsibilities alongside, minding the constraints of using resources, and beyond all, remaining grounded so as to make the best out of it. Unless experienced on our own, this above described context may seem hypothetical until we watch the space drama thriller Gravity, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, co-written by Jonas Cuaron, shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, musically defined by Steven Price, starring Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalski.
A team of five astronauts from NASA are about to complete their space mission, installing a new system in their telescope. With just one day more to go home, while working on a minor issue, they are informed from earth that a Russian satellite has got an unintentional explosion causing a chain of debris cruising towards their altitude in bullet speed once every 90 minute. Before they realize to evacuate themselves from that place, in no time the debris hit their vehicle leaving only two of the members alive: Mission Commander Matt Kowalski & Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone. Until a minute before, Ryan wasn’t worried of her cylinder’s O2 being just 9%, for she can top it up at any time she gets into her shuttle. Now that she is shivering in anxiety and breathing heavily after being thrown from the shattered vehicle, she has to make use of the soon-to-be gone O2 until Matt and she can find another vehicle nearby to get their lifeline and do the re-entry. Along with this, Matt’s jet is running out of fuel which, hereafter, is to be shared by both the astronauts as Ryan hasn’t got jet to locomote on her own. Owing to the surprised catastrophe, every simple things including breathing and locomoting have become a great deal of improvisation.
In an eagle eye, it’s an adventure of finding a vehicle to re-enter Earth, crossing a few big milestones: Their explorer is totaled and is no more a vehicle, thereby the next hope is the International Space Station where a Russian vehicle Soyuz is found. Unfortunately, it appears unfit for cruising to Earth but good enough to ply in space to find another life boat. Hopefully, the Chinese station turns out to be one, having Shenzhou which can cruise to Earth. During this exploration, whatever they encounter in between are more of nature’s evaluation of Ryan’s will, adaptability, decisiveness, and endurance and of Matt’s strengths and values he has cultivated in his core for years. It is ‘values’ I say, as at a point, Matt has to decide over something where the best he can do is to say goodbye which otherwise would cost both of their lives, and Mission Commander Matt does pay his life, letting Ryan afford the few chances left to survive. Ryan, making the best out of Matt’s priceless decision, moves forward, meditatively remains insensitive to the intimidating physics, overcomes all her unprecedented challenges thrown at her, reaches Earth through an extremely dreadful journey, which she can keep commemorating for the rest of her life to feed her soul with pride, honour, and strength.
The gravity of lack of gravity:
Gravity, in the first place, takes its individuality because of its plot. For a space movie that demands every form of energy right from time to money in a very large scale, this plot is incredibly simple for the makers to believe that it will work. Add to that, this is not a sci-fi movie to excite the audience with larger-than-life logics, rather it is Nature that the protagonist fights with. The story may be deep, carrying great philosophies, but those can never reach us if we are least bothered to watch Ryan’s pursuit in the first place. So the challenge is to touch the visceral concern that really matters to the audience: the anxiety of dealing with her ‘now’. Besides the stranded state, helplessness, resource scarcity and little prospect of going home, the real struggle is her anxiety that comes out of her awareness of what she is amid of. So, given this phenomenon, the theme of the movie is naturally autonomous to captivate our senses to mind what’s going on screen. However, it is surprising to hear from the director that it is not a space movie. If he says so, what is all that grandiose work for?
To Escape Earth:
From the very beginning of the film, we can find a grief in Ryan’s eyes. We might think that it is quite the way she is, until we hear the story of her daughter’s death. “It is the scene of Ryan revealing why she is up there, not wanting to be on Earth, I found my music worked best”, says Steven Price, the music composer of Gravity. Here is where Gravity goes way deep to address an uncommon psychological condition of humans: feeling strangely numb towards life. While visiting space is a dream come true for anyone, Matt Kowalski celebrating every single moment being in space, Ryan appears oddly calm and melancholic. I mean, what kind of rareness the writers introduced to us: ‘Someone having no effect on seeing the immensely beautiful celestial vastness’. Even when Matt asks what she loves being up there, her reply is, “The silence……I could get used to it”. It is clear that she became sick of Earth or precisely, the world, and perhaps, expedition to space, for her, is to get rid of the world. It is indeed the uniqueness of Gravity: the writer choosing such a motive behind the protagonist’s space journey, whereas any astronaut would generally see going to space as a life-time ambition. She also says she misses no one on Earth, not even Mr. Stone. Nowhere is it stated that her husband is not alive, but Ryan not missing him can be taken that she must had no good association with him, which also implies that she finds no urge to go back to Earth. However, in this script, Ryan had to live and Matt had to die. So, given that Ryan feels detached from life on Earth and Matt is a man who lives life to the fullest, why did the Cuarons write a fate that terminated Matt but had other plans for Ryan? The difference in how these two characters completed their journeys must imply something.
Matt didn’t die:
At least, he didn’t think he was dying. He might have thought he was dancing; dancing to the track fate played to him. He had always been more than an astronaut. It feels like he was the only guy who was meant to be in space than anyone else; not just because of his super-cool attitude and his extraordinary space walk experience but his very core. Else, one can’t justify his act of untethering himself from Ryan, which is literally choosing to die only to add comma for Ryan’s life. Yes, it could be a sign of maturity owing to his retirement period and an ethical call a colleague should take in case of a critical situation in a mission. But the ease; it’s unimaginable. Deciding on something is fine; we can take some time, mull over it and arrive at something. But what if the moment demands your freedom of taking that sometime too? It’s purely a combination of both ‘either or’ and ‘now or never’, isn’t it? This says that he is a man of present. He just listens to the music life plays to him and dances accordingly. Besides the life saving decision for Ryan, he helped her even after his death too. The clarity she gets in her dream to use landing jets for launching: one can’t say it’s a gift from God but again an extension of Matt’s existence. Unless he had been a guy who was cool, visionary and inspiring as humanly as possible, Ryan would’ve dreamed a Matt who might be of no use. This man is written to let us know how precious and eternally effective a present can turn out when properly lived. So, though Matt is technically terminated, in life context, it’s defining death not as death but another kind of existence.
Throwing you to yourself:
“As you are, you are unreal. That’s why all your hoping goes on. All hopes are false. You are real and my whole effort is how to throw you to yourself”
Gravity’s plot, simply put, is ‘What it takes to live again can be as deadly as dying’. After losing people, Ryan felt no purpose in living. She became insensitive towards life. There might have just been hope inside her; hoping for the sake of hoping, for she got no reasons to die too. After her daughter’s death, continuing being a doctor, dedication and hard work during training at NASA, everything must have got different reasons from those of a normal space aspirant. I wonder, if there can be phases in life as we see in Ryan’s case, where you can work your ass off, become NASA’s one of the best, get to see great things you have never seen before, but still can question, “Why am I living?” It is life’s unfathomable nature Gravity discusses behind the curtain.
People say, “We often whine at what we don’t have while failing to thank for what we have”. So it took a powerful reminder that’s as deadly as getting close to death for Ryan to feel life again. Corroborating that, many frames in the movie speak of rebirth metaphorically: Ryan’s relaxing posture in the module as a baby in mother’s womb; Matt’s untethering and letting her act on her own as a mother does to her child cutting the umbilical cord; her re-entering Earth in one of the burning pods leading the others as the first sperm among millions to hit the ovary(Earth). However, it’s not that she will never find any extreme situation like this hereafter. Something more dreadful can occur too, but fighting that won’t demand what she didn’t earn and learn from this journey. Gravity: Let go…
– Javith Razvi