Wild Black Yonder: The Wide Shots of Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’

In space, no one can hear you scream.
By  · Published on May 11th, 2017

In space, no one can hear you scream.

People hardly ever agree with me, but in a sense, I like to think of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity as a horror film. Certainly, the premise is terrifying: being trapped, alone, a thousand miles above the earth in the most inhospitable environment known to man with no clear or safe route home. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) makes for the perfect “final girl;” she smart, capable, resilient, and self-reliant. The only thing missing from the film is an antagonist, some sort of monster or other killer pursing our heroine, and I’d argue that you could slip time into that role: time is what Dr. Stone is up against, time is what she must defeat in order to survive. Time and the cold, ruthless, airless and endless expanse of space.

It’s this expanse that really drives home the horrific aspects of Gravity for me, and it’s captured in those gorgeous and haunting wide shots employed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to show just how alone Stone is, and just how extreme her situation is. She’s a white pinprick set against infinite darkness, an immeasurable speck amongst the boundless cosmos. This contrast serves not only to emphasize the insurmountable odds she’s up against, but also to augment her eventual success and in turn her character’s internal fortitude.

In the following compilation from Harrison Edgecombe, the wide shots of Gravity have been gathered and cinematically stitched together to reveal their impact on establishing the tone and – pardon the pun – atmosphere of Cuaron’s film. As you watch, notice the dread each shot instills, the way they make your hair stand on end and your breath hold itself deep in the pit of your lungs, then try to tell me Gravity isn’t a horror film.

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