The Weight of Gravity: Exploring the Importance and Influence of Cuaron’s Intimate Epic

By  · Published on January 18th, 2017

A new video essay reflects on the multi-Oscar winning film.

If you think about it, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand, it’s the story of a spacewalk interrupted by a storm of debris and the subsequent damage to advanced equipment that jumpstarts an imperiled odyssey homeward, and furthermore it’s told using an array of innovative and in fact groundbreaking cinematic techniques. On the other hand, it’s a film that takes as its focus the most common and basic machine known to humankind: the body. Though it is technology that propels the narrative, it is through the physicality of actress Sandra Bullock that we come to experience the film. When she’s cold, we feel it; when she’s breathless, we also gasp; when she’s overwhelmed by the task at hand and the odds against her with the vast grave of darkest space as a backdrop, we are too, transported as we’ve been into her body by our empathy with her trauma. It’s not a discredit to the filmmakers at all to say that at points in Gravity you forget you’re watching a science-fiction adventure story and instead feel embroiled in some intimate drama, only to be reminded of genre the very next instant by some dazzling display of cinematography and VFX magic.

The result is a film with one foot in both those realms – drama and science-fiction – and more so a film with one foot in the medium’s past and one in its future, a bridge between Old and New Hollywood that brings the best of both eras into a film that was universally regarded by critics and moviegoers alike, a film that somehow manages to be both entertainment and art.

How Cuaron and crew accomplished this, which era they adhere to more, and questions of the film’s lasting importance to both its medium and art at large are what inspired the following video essay “The Weight of Gravity” from filmscalpel, a site every fan of visual criticism should have bookmarked.

This is nothing short of top-notch analysis and it’s also one of the only critical video essays I’ve come across that was selected for inclusion among the prestigious Vimeo Staff Picks collection. Watch the video, bookmark filmscalpel’s site, and follow them on Twitter for more of the good stuff every day.

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