Saturday, October 12, 2013

Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, a movie which shows nerves of steel and twinges of emotion

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron may bear some resemblance to economist, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, but he has directed movies like Harry Potter earlier, and now he comes with Sandra Bullock-George Clooney starrer Gravity which is in the mould of a predictable and traditional Hollywood disaster saga. But it becomes quite clear early on that the drama and melodrama have been shelved, and that high above the earth two individuals come close in a moment of professional intimacy and are blown away by a regular mishap. You see no one else other than Sandra Bullock and George Clooney for the two-hour length of the film, and their conversation borders on Hollywood inanity. But what makes the film different is that whether adrift on oceans or in high up there above earth, human beings cling to simple companionship, reaching out to each other and deriving the courage and determination to survive from the other person.
Like in any Hollywood sci-fi thriller, where all science and technology does not rise above the level of goobledy-gook,Gravity too can mined for inaccuracies of every technological and scientific kind. But what is of significance in the movie is the conversation and companionship between two human beings. Perhaps after Andre Tarkovsky's Solaris, this is the first time we see human beings in their rawness in space, confronting their own vulnerabilities and seeking to hold on to certainties by holding on to each other. There are two observations in the movie about space uttered by the characters. Early in the movie, the character played by Sandra Bullock says that she likes space because of the silence. Towards the end, in the frenzy of trying to get away from it all and back to earth, she exclaims, "I hate space."
There is also a strange starkness and desolation that surrounds the two astronauts and and the battered space ship of the Russians, the international space station reminding one of the crisis on the ISS in June 1997, and the Chinese space module. But all that you get to see the machines against the dark backdrop where the stars are visible but do not shimmer or glimmer. The earth deep below remains a silent spectator. There are no people other than the two protagonists. You hear recorded voices. And the two astronauts desperately issue directions to Houston to copy what they are saying. On the edge of desperation and desolation, all that you console yourself is with what you say in the hope that it will be heard and that it is not lost in the abysses of silence of the space. It speaks of the terrible loneliness of human beings in space, in the world and in the universe. What keeps the human alive in the human beings is love, emotion, relationships. That is why, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity breaks with the Hollywood precedent of the disaster film.

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