I have always had a very intimate relationship with art. Danced with music, flirted with films, and bedded with books. In the many thousands of aesthetic acquaintances I have made, occasionally a great love comes along, an Art that stimulates and embraces me on multiple fronts.
The film Gravity is such an Art.
Gravity understands me. She seduces me with Science speak, endorsed by Buzz Aldrin himself. I can’t resist the curves of her angular momentum, her songs of sorrow and wonder. She shifts effortlessly from Science to Art, finding beauty in both: the northern lights’ sensual physics, the soundless ballet of zero gravity, the magnificent array of gas giants that speckle the galaxy’s gaping canvas. She has a sense of humour, refuses to lie down quietly, is amazingly ambitious and extraordinarily entertaining, and knows there is more to life than spectacle.
Don’t get me wrong—she is visually spectacular. The most visually spectacular film to date. But this is where she wins the race: Gravity puts her core in character, in personal transformation, alongside an exquisitely understated meditation on life purpose and gratitude.
Rarely, is Gravity still. But when she is, and prayers are called for and baby lullabies are sung, those who are receptive find themselves drying their eyes. There is a refined rhythm to Gravity, each flurry of fervent excitement followed by quiet reflection.
This next bit is easily missed; Gravity is often subtle in her approach. You must pay attention to what she shows you, and what she does not. The mysteries of the in-betweens, of the things that are craftily hidden, make them all the more enticing. Gravity has the audacity to assume you are intelligent, an anomaly in today’s cinema.
A good work of art usually offers me a single episode of awe, and then the spark is gone. But I keep coming back to Gravity, because she persistently inspires.
Here are ten moments of meticulous perfection (largely spoiler-free):
1. The opening, 13-minute scene where the camera does not cut for a single second. Consider yourself immersed.
2. The presence of the Earth throughout the film. She is her own living, breathing character, an enormous presence yet too far to touch.
3. When the camera is focused on Sandra Bullock’s face, moves through her facemask, and turns to give the audience her spinning perspective. Immaculate care and attention went into every facial nuance and programmed pixel of this experience.
4. The director’s painstakingly precise strokes in each frame, to ensure the viewer only sees exactly what he wants you to; nothing less, nothing more.
5. The astronaut spinning out through space, disappearing into the web of constellations, reappearing briefly via the facemask’s light, and twirling back into oblivion.
7. Breathing. Silence. Air. Vacuum. The visceral transition and escaping of sound.
9. The moment of epiphany. (I have never been entirely convinced by Sandra Bullock as an actor. I am now.)
10. Potential spoiler, highlight text to read: The long sought-after opportunity where she tries to stand, but cannot.
Of course, not everyone will find her beautiful, or care for Gravity‘s often tense (if three-dimensional) personality. On occasion she creatively re-imagines Newton’s laws, yet she is always uncompromising in her vision. I am deeply smitten. My scientific / artistic / spiritual / relational / humourous / adventurous / musical / geeky / interdisciplinary / determined / parental selves are ecstatic that someone finally understands and interconnects all these parts of my whole.
Reaching back a decade, I cannot recall a more rewarding and exhilarating cinematic experience.