Over the Rainbow: The Simple Brilliance of ‘Gravity’

Gravity is not only the most thrilling, awe-inspiring visual film experience since Avatar, it is also a deeply spiritual journey…and an absolute must-see for film fans. ~ Stephen Simon

A friend of mine described the 2013 film Gravity in triplicate: Disturbing, wonderful, and a work of art. But then, he has a way of putting things succinctly.2013_gravity_movie-wide

I’m working on it. However, when I’m writing, words tend to flow more like a Suenami — a nickname given to me by another friend during Hurricane Katrina, in remarking about my writing style. I’m comfortable with that, even embracing it now as the general way I write about things…over and under, around and through, washing over the subject and maybe never coming to any conclusions.

I’m glad I asked my friend about his impressions, because the Oscar blockbuster dammed up my usual flood of words. The film stopped me in my in my tracks. It took by breath away so many times that I had to make a conscious effort to keep inhaling and exhaling.

We saw Gravity in November after it hit the cinemas.  I’d love to see it in IMAX, although big screen 3D was – as noted filmmaker Stephen Simon wrote in a review – next best for this movie, which he calls one of the great screen experiences in the history of cinema.

It’s a 90-minute thrill ride, of course, that Director Alfonso Cuaron and company have given us. It’s a ride that’s disturbing, wonderful and a work of art.

Entertainment Weekly selected actress Sandra Bullock as Entertainer of the Year for 2013 for her portrayal of astronaut and medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone. Stone and space shuttle mission commander Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney, are on a space walk when massive debris hits. The catastrophic event leaves them alone in space, stranded, with the shuttle crew dead and the International Space Station evacuated.

Film critic Roger Ebert says of Gravity: At times it plays like a high-tech version of shipwreck or wilderness survival story that happens to take place among the stars.

Yes, a great survival film, it is. But, perhaps in the winter of 2014 a reflection on the survival perspective could take us to an entirely different level. I’m thinking about this now, because I recall very distinctly my feelings about our global community while experiencing Gravity last fall. I remember thinking that every person on the planet should see this film.

Now, as we turn to springtime, I feel this even more. This winter of 2014 brought us some contrasting events that all unfolded some 250 miles below the space station, down here on our big blue marble.

Gravity reminded me of that first photo of earth from space. Imagine. That was in the last century. It was the photo that resounded in our hearts, when humanity began to realize how connected we are on this planet.

This winter we experienced the 22nd Winter Olympics of 2014 on the world stage in Sochi, Russia, followed by the Winter Paralympics on the same stage.

What does Sochi have to do with Gravity?  There is a contrast that is mind boggling, if you think about it. While the Olympic Winter Games drew the admiration of the world community, being held in Russia made them all the more notable for the spirit and purpose of peace and harmony the games represent.

Sochi came into the crosshairs of the world during these games. The five rings in rainbow colors represent the five continents, as I understand it, and the colors reflect the colors of the flags of participating nations. Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic flag in 1912.

A century later, and you wonder, when will we ever get it? While all the beauty and pomp and circumstance were going on in Russia, some very disturbing events were happening that involved the host country. The Russian/Ukrainian/Crimea drama began to unravel before the eyes of the world.

On stage, the Olympic theme was playing out in all its glory during the games. Meanwhile, the contrast, to me, was deafening in its scope: the theme breaking down barriers of the Paralympics, with the situation ramping up in Crimea.  I caught the opening ceremonies, which featured the massive and hauntingly beautiful ice breaker ship and the wonderful colors of the dancers in their traditional native garments, suggesting both unity and diversity. Ah, the mystery and mystique of Russia masterfully played out, leaving you to wonder.

The theme, breaking the ice and coming together, felt hollow to me; it felt elusive, rather than uplifting. The difference I perceived between the two Olympics saddened me greatly.  As the word MIR appeared on the giant ice breaker ship, I wondered, at what cost PEACE? A peaceful world, they said it means, emphasizing new channels of communication and blazing new paths for mankind.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at one of his press conferences during negotiations about the Ukraine and Crimea situation, talked about coming together as a community of nations.  So, why can’t we?

All through this whole ordeal, I am thinking of the symbolism of nations cooperating with nations that the space program represents. I thought of this as I watched Gravity last fall. I thought of it again when I happened to tune in to the March 14 National Geographic Channel Live From Space  show with Soledad O’Brien and Astronaut Mike Massinimo, speaking live with the space station crew while the station orbited the earth during the two hours.

Watching Gravity in November, I marveled at how far I thought we’d come in space. It wasn’t a race so much any more but a cooperative venture.  It was a collaboration of nations for a common goal and common good. The International Space Station represented the highest ideals of international collaboration.

I have to admit to feeling uneasy when the United States chose to depend on Russian rockets to get our astronauts back and forth into space after closing down the shuttle system. Of course, now, with the bizarre events going on politically between nations, it seems a real test: thinking about the space station and the fact that we are up in space together, yet cannot see eye to eye on the ground.

The cliché fits: Something is wrong with this picture.  I felt uncomfortable watching the National Geographic live show. I’m sure it was planned way in advance. But, you have to wonder what all the astronauts on the space station are thinking.

Perhaps we should look up at this symbol in the sky.  

The Earth is what we all have in common, said writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry. Yes, I think everyone should see Gravity, given the gravity of happenings down below here on earth. Everyone should see this film, not so much for the breathtaking technical and visual effects, but for the feelings you can’t help but experience about the beauty and vulnerability of the human condition.

You’re on the edge of your seat the entire 90 minutes. Hundreds of thoughts whirl in your mind—ranging the gamut of disturbing, wonderful and artistic. It is so disturbing, wonderful and artistic that you find yourself holding your breath. Visually, it’s a sensual overwhelm… of the vastness, the beauty, the loneliness of space.

Gravity went over the rainbow in Oscars won: visual effects, sound mixing, sound editing, cinematography, film editing, original score and director. How amazing that the film captured this rainbow of tributes as the academy turned the spotlight on 2014 being the 75th anniversary year of the film classic, the Wizard of Oz.

The two films, while wildly different, converge in some ways.  Metaphorically, Dr. Stone must realize that, like Dorothy, she’s not in Kansas anymore. But, oh, the will to get back becomes paramount.   At times, Gravity does seem like a dream, with the vision Dr. Stone has when Matt appears to her, feeling like a daydream within the dream.  For me, the dream aspect is a focal point for receiving the creative insight that helped her survive.

Gravity reminds us of our intuitive, creative abilities to solve our problems and maneuver around in our personal orbits…even to the point of Matt following his intuition — in his compassion for the well being of Ryan Stone — choosing to cut himself off and leave.

I felt the movie to be a catalyst for us to focus on the art of gratitude: gratitude for the gift of life, for every breath we are privileged to take.  The experience of Gravity offers us a portal to appreciate the power of nature and the cosmos and our tiny, exquisite place in it.

Movies like Gravity can inspire our own creativity. We resonate with Dr. Stone as she discovers the resilience to persevere. The Sochi Paralympics closing ceremonies highlighted this resilience and creativity of the human spirit. Impossible becomes I’m possible.

I hope the aftereffects of both Olympics may inspire true hope to ripple through global hearts at some level with this message. Meanwhile, films like Avatar and Gravity can inspire one person at a time to discover the peaceful place that we all have in common.

 Gravity is disturbing and wonderful artistry that grabs your heart, until you understand that you’re holding your breath and – like Dr Stone – learning to let go. The simple brilliance of Gravity is its focus: letting go, finding a way back down the mountain, down to earth…and, like Dorothy, going home.


Gravity: Imax behind the frame
















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Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.