Friday, December 20, 2013

Gravity (2013) is much appreciated

I never thought I would write an elegy for Sandra Bullock. But, when they say "never say never", I guess they are right; I totally feel like writing an elegy for her performance in Gravity (2013), indeed. Even if part of the credit goes to the Alfonso Cuaron for being the director he is (a director able to achieve concrete results with a largely abstract scenario like this one), his female lead cannot go without praise.

Sandra Bullock is Dr. Ryan Stone is a medical engineer on her first mission in outer space. Veteran Matt Kowalsky -a George Clooney who uses flirting as a technique to relieve stress- is doing his best to support her, in order to complete their mission which is to repair the Hubble telescope. From one moment to the other, things go wrong. Random debris threaten the mission, the absence of gravity makes every single movement a strain and the two space walkers have to share forces; to save at least one of them.

Filled with moments of suspense, anxiety and distress, Gravity is more a film on human psyche than on astronautic deeds. Just as Roger Ebert puts it: "For all its stunning exteriors, it's really concerned with emotional interiors […]"; the vast empty spaces dispersed with stars only accentuate the insignificance of human action and technical malfunction, and put forward loneliness and loss. 

Loss has many forms; loss of many things at once is portrayed at the film in an agonising way: loss of gravity, loss of a child, loss of hope; then, again, there's the fear of loss that we have to learn how to cope with. The torn heroine has to learn how to cope with loss and continue living, because, trying to cling to whatever is out of reach is meaningless, can only bring despair and destru(a)ction of/from the essential, life. "You have to learn to let go", veteran Matt Kowalsky tells Dr. Ryan Stone, in a moment of self-sacrifice and realistic thinking combined. By the end of the film, she probably does. After such an adventure, there's no way one cannot appreciate oxygen and…err, gravity indeed (even me, I started appreciating it more ever since the screening).

Sandra Bullock gave a great performance, and whoever cast her, as well as whoever took freedom to groom and train her did a great job. First of all, her expressive eyes and high cheekbones somehow highlighted her loss of hope, her pain, her fragility; but the her short haircut helped quite a lot in this direction. Her toned body was a talking contradiction: a bunch of muscles are not good enough out of their natural environment -no gravity and the body struggles, its force is eliminated. When back to earth, the same body is still out of function, it needs time to adjust and regain the upright position. Which brings us to a bottom line full of hope: a fragile body is nothing without inner strength, a will to carry on, a yearning to live and enjoy the simple things, overcoming grief and distress.

Interesting points are made by two articles I read with regards to the themes of the film: Moviepilot finds a place for Gravity in the realm of action films who portray strong female characters, without employing sexuality to "sell" them to an exclusively male audience, to which I totally agree. Then, Psychology Today is focusing on developmental themes in space, and draws parallels between Dr. Stone's trajectory towards strength and maturity and a child growing up, an explanation that I find captivating.

Now, what's the buzz? The movie recently received 4 Golden Globe nominations: Best Director and Best Actress, both in the category "drama" for Cuaron and Bullock, then Best original score and Best motion picture. The two fist they totally deserve the honour; personally, I found the music more or less predictable (even thought it helped a great deal to create suspense), and best film, well, I never know how to judge that. Would such an emotional and out -of-this-world experience be the best filmic experience for 2013? Maybe, for some. The scriptwriters had sense of humour early on, which is definitely another plus. Great visuals, too, and I absolutely loved the 3D animation; stars, debris and all sorts of tools were flying my way all the time. Kinda cool.

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