Suffice to say that Cuarón’s film is spectacular in every sense of the word. Narrative is streamlined to allow a heavy emphasis on experience from the get-go, utilising stereoscopic so effectively that myself and other critics of “3D” are forced to reconsider their stance. Cuarón’s signature long takes (albeit stitched) get a good workout and, although many of the elements would usually scream “Gimmick!”, such is the importance of the camera here that we are seeing a truly filmic work. Like the similarly groundbreaking but overlooked Sucker Punch, Lubezki’s extraordinary cinematography is precise in its use of conventional and audacious technique. Suspense is generated as the film flip-flops between character/external knowledge, and the audience is encouraged to interpret the action – “Because space” is usually the answer – and dread permeates, not through use of foreshadowing, but through ambiguity. An unusually lengthy shot of a spacecraft module, parachute slowly unfurling behind it, or later completely still. Why? It’s a game of anticipation of sorts, reading the discours before the histoire plays out. It’s no wonder “film people” loved this movie so much.
The general minimalism also allows heightened theme, at first through Cuarón’s continued obsession with motherhood – umbilical cords, the foetal position… a visual language placing the film in a strange, semi-metaphorical arena. Later, a vague religious theme develops, though this exists knowingly on the edge of despair – where we laugh, or we find beauty. Witness Gravity‘s moments of sad contemplation – the sun on the Ganges. These human tendencies are, according to my reading, revealed to be necessary when you take away what seems sure. Kowalski encourages Stone to keep on talking on the radio in case someone is listening. A typical Hollywood film would follow this up with a last act response and a mighty U.S. rescue mission. Instead it is likened to prayer, in the sense that the act of talking proves important to the will to survive. It’s probably the deepest mechanism you’ll see to work in exposition(!)
An exploratory experience as much as it is exciting, Gravity is an extraordinary feat and assuredly one of 2013’s best pieces of film art.