23 Nov 2013

Gravity (3D Version)

This is the first 3D film I've ever seen at the cinema. The 3D imaging hurts your eyes as objects career into you retina, or so it seems! Gravity is essentially a day in the life of two astronauts, well arguably three and eventually only one. For me, Gravity is an empty vessel that has very little of any significance to express at all. In fact it is a kind of Cowboy film in Outer Space, with a minimum of characters. George Clooney is problematic as, well a cowboy in Space and Sandra Bullock is little more than useless, apart from her gravity defying gymnastics that are reasonably aesthetic and exhibit some physicality.

Nonetheless, the film is curiously good, although far from fascinating. It isn't the strength of the acting - mediocre at best and it isn't the predictable and, arguably facile storyline, therefore it must have been, at least in part, the effects that enthralled. However, there's more to Gravity than that; Outer Space, isolation, globalisation and multiculturalism in abandoned, fractured space stations! Postmodern? Well, I wouldn't like to say that the writer and director were utilising space travel as a postmodern metaphor, as a film akin to the Matrix may consciously do, but the feelings of isolation and human vulnerability were palpable.

At one stage Bullock's character feels helpless and lost while alone in a space capsule. She turns off the oxygen and Clooney's now deceased character comes to her in a semi-conscious dream. This solipsistic, narcissistic state (dream state) with echoing memories of "authentic" humanity motivate her to begin her trip back to Earth. Throughout the film the characters are cyborgs dependent upon and, potentially destroyed by new technology.

Ok, so "Hal" isn't going to develop consciousness and throw a multitude of philosophical and ethical questions into the narrative, as we saw in 2001; A Space Odyssey. However, Bullock's characters return to a foetal position, for me has echoes of 2001 and the Alien series of films where Sigourney Weaver's character becomes the mother of an alien/human hybrid. In Gravity we witness the frailty of human existence both emotionally and physically. This could be seen as a metaphor for the psychological vulnerability of people living in big cities, spending much of their time in front of screens reacting to media thats only justification is its self. Or money may be more honest, but less philosophically appealing. Baudrillard may have seen reverberations of simulacra in Gravity.

It is worth mentioning Bullock's character's descent to Earth. When she lands in a lake, I assume in the outer-reaches of China, she mistakenly opens the hatch of the space capsule and water, like oxygenless Outer Space, begins to pour into the craft. She manages to escape and eventually swims up to the surface gasping for air. Indeed, there is no escape in Space (nor in cyber space) from the trails and dangers of life. Nor back on Earth, where for all its familiarity and beauty, potential risks lie around every corner. Strangely, there is no welcoming committee to greet Bullock's character; she appears to revel in the isolation, grasping at the soil at the water's edge breathing the air and feeling the warmth of the Sun on her skin. Isolation, throughout the film seems inevitable and desirable.

The U.S. has stopped funding the Space Shuttle for a while now (the Shuttle is pivotal to the film) and, it seems that according to Gravity even in tandem with space stations from other countries (notably Russia and China) the U.S. does not have the power nor ability to conquer even the nearest reaches of Outer Space. In fact, the U.S. may be a victim of its own success, re: the Space Shuttle disasters. When you consider that a stray missile causes great damage to Space stations and the Shuttle in Gravity, both the difficulty of conquering Space and the risks associated with new technologies seem particularly, relevant points.

In conclusion, it is once again worth noting that Gravity is not a "conceptual" film in the sense that it doesn't make any profound points about contemporary life or, indeed about our possible futures. Nonetheless, Postmodern themes are touched upon in a playful and almost incidental manner. Not only do we have fractured subjectivities and fluid identities we also experience fractured proximities. The inability of the U.S. to conquer "local" Outer Space could be seen as indicative of Western decline and the progress of emerging economies. However, for me it points more towards an economic, intellectual and cultural stagnancy rather than paranoia about non-Western supremacy. In this sense Gravity is both Postmodern and ironic and cites isolation and aloneness as implicit to both contemporary life and to our technology-driven futures. Bullock's character is spared by Clooney's character, which appears to suggest the primacy of the life-giver. Nevertheless, ironically her descent to Earth results in near-death and isolation.


7 Nov 2013


How does the East view the concept of Postmodernism?  Is Postmodernism a Western concept via Western experience of the West and of the East (or non-Western)?  If this is the case, then how would someone from a non-Western culture or place view their culture and the phenomena of globalisation?  Would the idea of Postmodernism have any relevance to them or would it be understood in a different way?