Thanks to a susceptibility to sinus infections, I found myself at the Siam Paragon waiting for a showing of Gravity, the latest from Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón. Without him on board, this is one blockbuster I would have likely skipped – sci fi is a genre near to my heart, and with a questionable cast and a seemingly simplistic plot, I was more than skeptical. Surprisingly, by film’s end even Bullock had won me over, and Cuarón innovatively handled some of the more challenging environmental elements (the silence of space, lack of directional grounding, etc.) with an emotional poignancy.
I’m a sucker for space imagery, and in that sense the film was glorious – beautiful shots of our home planet coupled with an understated, airy score gave just the right feel of grandiose desolation. Against this backdrop, Cuarón’s subtle portraits of human love and frailty are almost painfully amplified.
I sensed a similar motif in Children. The relief and intimacy of the birth scene catalyzed the dramatic energy of the film into an incredibly moving image of human possibility inside a world thought condemned. In Gravity, Cuarón again returns to birth imagery as Bullock’s character finally reaches some respite in a crippled ISS. Here, quickly working her way out of her suit, she briefly lets go of the ongoing trauma and, cradled by weightlessness, returns to the soft ecstasy of the body. Within the violence of the outer vacuum, the divine wonder and weakness of the human form is made infinitely visible.
There is a deep optimism to be found in the look back at our pale blue dot, adrift in the void. Impossible obstacles are rendered inert, and the slow, patient move towards our true potential seems restored. In looking up, what we really seek is a renewed vision of ourselves – and the faith to lean towards it.