In the movie, there were many long takes to help guide the audience through the film’s setting; the film even opens with one of these, which helps create the three-dimensional illusion of floating around in space. In addition, lighting also played an important role in making the set pieces and environment look realistic; since there is no atmosphere in space and all the light has to look unfiltered directly coming from the sun, over a million LED lights had to be used to create the film to emphasize its realistic portrayal of space.
The filmmakers successfully created a setting that conveyed emotions without the luxury of actors walking on ground plane. One of the main themes in Gravity is it’s important to learn how to move forward from the past and start anew without the grief and sorrow one’s encountered a long time ago. From the New Yorker, Brody describes that “‘Gravity’ offers each of its characters a single, one-dimensional, deterministic, and plot-centric element of backstory (Brody).
” I thought this film was worthy of study mainly because of the deep, universal message that it conveys through the actions, thoughts, and character development of the protagonist, Stone. While Stone is initially portrayed as someone who barely grasps onto the concept of living fully and to the brink of contentment, it isn’t until later in the film that the viewer sees why she does so; knowing that Stone has suffered the loss of her daughter changes the viewer’s opinion of her character and shows how Stone is not only struggling to survive in space, but also through her psychological journey to reach closure with her loss and finally let go of her past.
The moment she lands on Earth and takes her first few steps on land doesn’t necessarily represent the end of her long journey in space; instead, it symbolizes the beginning of her new life she starts as soon as she learns to let go of her traumatic past. Stone’s physical journey through space and her struggle to survive directly mirrors her metaphorical journey to reaching closure and accepting the loss of her daughter years ago. Kowalski helps save Stone’s life multiple times throughout the movie by telling her to detach and then literally detaching himself from her when he cuts the rope and floats off into space. The physical detachment reflects his verbal advice to Stone, “You have to learn to let go,” and emphasizes the theme of the film; it also marks a turning point in Stone’s psychological journey when she gains a newfound desire to want to live. When Stone works her way into a spacecraft and floats inside without her suit, she positions herself in a way that resembles an unborn baby inside a womb. This scene symbolizes the “rebirth” of Stone, who is ready to move on from the past that has haunted her and start a new life. From there on, she works her way into finding a method to propel her spacecraft back towards Earth, and her first steps on land symbolize the beginning of her new, brighter future.
From a psychoanalytic critical lens, the film brilliantly portrays Stone’s psychological journey to acceptance with her past through her literal, physical journey through space back to Earth. Her mental traits and characteristics, such as inability to make peace with her past and lack of a free spirited, carefully reflect the metaphorical and cinematic shots taken throughout the film; for example, Stone’s failure to detach herself from her past is shown through the shots of her clinging onto pieces of machinery and desperately telling Kowalski not to cut the rope when he does so to save her. At the end of the movie, when Stone crashes into the water, she removes her suit and finds her way back to land. In this instance, the water that Stone lands in is still very similar to the environment of space she was previously in—a place that has no oxygen, can quite dangerous, and allows Stone to float around.
At the end of her journey, when Stone takes her first steps on land, those steps represent the end to her psychological journey to reach closure and she takes Kowalski’s advice to “plant her feet to the ground and move forward.” The combination of cinematography and narrative techniques appealed to many people who have seen the film. On November 1, 2013, Box Mojo summed up the film’s career since its release on October 4, 2013: “Through four weeks in theaters, Gravity earned $206.1 million, which accounted for just under a third of total domestic box office earnings in October (Subers).” Gravity departs from familiar conventions of science fiction and survival narratives and concentrates on themes that are present in everyday life. It’s a film that is not set in the future, but in the here and now.