Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gravity is about finding God

At, there's a review of the film Gravity that claims it's a "plea for science," but I think that reviewer is cherry-picking and ignoring important details.  There are some big clues that the movie is, in fact, a plea for religion.


In the middle of the film, Ryan (Sandra Bullock) complains that nobody has ever taught her how to pray.  Then she does pray (to her fallen comrade), hoping that her daughter is in Heaven waiting for her.  This is after she finds a renewed appreciation for life.  She is now ready to act, live or die.  A leap of faith.  And what does she say after she acts?  "I hate space."

The contrast between space and earth is always looming in this film.  While space is empty, desolate, lonely and meaningless, earth is warm, friendly, meaningful and hospitable.  Earth is always in the background, beautiful (as Ryan is often told, though she never acknowledges or notices it), but far away. Space is where Bullock resides, where she went after her daughter died.  Space is where she goes for quiet, away from humanity.  When she gets to her lowest and coldest, she is touched by a small dose of life and love (through a random radio connection).  She cries, but since she's never learned how to pray (as she explains), she gives up.  But then, somehow, she is awakened and she is inspired to take that leap of faith.  And so she prays and confidently expresses her disdain for space:  for being away from God.

Her leap of faith, her reaching out to God, leads her to earth--or, rather, to the pull of earth.  The film is called "Gravity," after all.  It is the force of gravity that ultimately saves her.  But she is saved only because she made a leap of faith.  We can equate the two:  her leap of faith brought her closer to God just as it brought her closer to earth.  Earth symbolizes God, and so gravity symbolizes religion.  The leap of faith brought her to religion, and thus to God; to gravity, and thus to earth.  This is even clearer when she finally gets to earth and says, to the ground, "Thank you."  Is she speaking to the earth or to God?  Or is she thanking gravity, religion, for grounding her?  Perhaps it is all of the above.  Through her thanks she finds the strength to stand.  And so the film ends, with her on her feet, grounded, standing tall against the sky--taller than ever before with religion to see her way forward.

One Catholic priest commented in response to that review:

As a Catholic I saw in the movie the Communion of Saints. In her darkest hour, she bemoans that she has no one to pray for her and that she didn't know how to pray for herself. Then she is visited by George Clooneys now dead character. Later she prays to Clooneys character to reach out to her child. And in the Russian craft there is an icon of St. Christopher (patron of travelers) carrying Jesus across a stream paralleling how Clooney carried her "across a dangerous passage." The final scene was both birth and baptism (which is a rebirth).
This makes sense to me.  I don't think the film is saying that God is everywhere.  I don't think the film is embracing science, exactly, either.  Science takes Ryan into space, away from God.  God is on earth, where mankind belongs.  So the film could be saying that science is dangerous, that science takes us away from our true path.

Anyway, I didn't like the movie.  I thought it was boring, annoying, disrespectful to basic physics and marred by bad, often hokey, dialogue. (The only really annoying thing that was disrespectful to physics, for me, was that there was nothing at all pulling George Clooney away from Bullock, and so there was no need for him to untether himself.)  It felt a lot like watching a motivational religious speaker, actually, but with much better special effects and cinematography. At least Sandra Bullock was believable. (Clooney, not so much.)

Also, I was offended by the way they characterized the different nationalities.  The American ship gets a Marvin the Martian.  The Russian ship gets a chess piece.  The Chinese, a ping pong paddle.  Talk about stereotypes!  Ping pong in space?  That would be entertaining to watch.  (And by the way, why was the computer on the Russian ship flashing the word "Fire"?  Don't they have a Russian word for that?)

But a lot of people think it's a great story.  That's probably because it is so enthusiastically motivational.  (Which reminds me how annoyed I was at how over-the-top the music and sound effects sometimes were, though they were occasionally quite effective).  It's all about overcoming great odds, finding faith, and doing it on your own, standing tall.  A very American story.

Update:  Here's a review from a Catholic publication that's worth checking out: Faith in Space: A Review of "Gravity".

Also check out my Further Reflections on "Gravity".