by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, October 16
At its peak, going to the movies should be a spiritual experience because Drama is meant to pierce us, evoke our deepest human emotions, and reveal Truth. Such achievement in cinema today is rare but Gravity is one such cinematic experience that meets the mark.
Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, who is a medical engineer on her first trip to space to equip the Hubble Telescope with some new gadgets. However, things quickly go wrong and the space mission’s crew is thrown into chaos as a Marvin the Martian figurine helplessly watches.
Gravity is a masterwork of film economy; in many ways it is defined by what is absent. It lacks the excess of explosions, CGI effects and sex scenes used as filler by other movies for cheap thrills. That’s not to say that the movie lacks CGI, which is used in abundance, but every shot is so purposeful and so artfully portrayed that the movie’s constant special effects possess an air of precious scarcity. In the silence of space events seem subdued as the seemingly infinite emptiness presses in.
That sense of infinity does not go unnoticed by Gravity’s characters. Dr. Ryan is overwhelmed by the infinite emptiness that surrounds her as she tries to survive and, naturally, when forced to look the infinite universe and the prospect of her own death in the face her mind ultimately turns to God. After her own unwitting prayer of sorts, Dr. Ryan surrenders herself to the infinite space around her and the inevitability of her own death – only to be rescued by a guardian angel who’s already saved her once before. Surrender quickly grows into hope for salvation. Resolved to the prospect of her own death but wanting to live, Dr. Ryan fights to survive as an icon of St. Christopher and a smiling Buddha watch over her.
Gravity beautifully employs the stark poverty of space to turn our minds towards what is important in life. Stripped of things and schedules and surrounded by the constant real danger posed by the infinite, the value of every human life becomes abundantly clear and its loss quite real. This reorientation towards what really matters culminates when Sandra Bullock’s character, back on Earth and surrounded by what seems an overabundance of life in contrast with the dead emptiness we just left, grasps of a handful of mud in her hand and whispers “thank you” to God.
Director Alfonso Cuarón, when talking about the movie, speaks of Gravity’s imagery of finding new knowledge of oneself, rebirth, and the evolution of Man. However, despite these more secular meanings the movie cannot seem to help but display an implicit yet constant religious message. Hope, grace, providence, prayer, life after death, self-sacrifice, and thanksgiving to God are just some of the elements present in Gravity. More profound is the movie’s portrayal of all of these aspects as innately human. Far from being arbitrary beliefs of an antiquated order, Gravity makes it clear that religion is ingrained deep into the core of the human spirit, hiding, and all we have to do is strip away the superficialities in life to find it.
Visually stunning, thrilling throughout, and possessing deeper symbolism and meaning, Gravity is a cinematic achievement and a must-see.
Christian Ohnimus is a registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He is a contributor to The Porch and The Catholic Renaissance.