Theme: Life after Death
The movie Gravity is about gravity. In order to understand how the entire subject matter of the ninety minute film focuses on this one word (not just the last ten minutes), one needs the complete definition. Here is one from the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1943) that captures …yes the gravity (importance, weight) of the word.
Gravity: 1. State or quality of being grave; seriousness; solemnity; importance; enormity.
2. Archaic. A grave matter.
3. Ponderability; also weight.
4. Terrestrial gravitational; specific, the gravitational acceleration of terrestrial bodies toward the center of the earth.
The film examines each of the four meanings (in numerical order) while taking the audience on a tense journey in outer space which probes the very meaning of life. Profound, moving, impactful to the nth degree; it is no wonder critics are giving it their highest ratings and viewers are flocking to see it.
#1. State or quality of being grave; seriousness; solemnity; importance; enormity.
The movie opens in the enormity of space where there is silence. Words describing the conditions in space appear on the screen with this final pronouncement “Life in space is impossible.”
The Earth comes into view and slowly the sound of people talking pierces the silence. The protagonists are introduced; Matt Kowalski the seasoned astronaut “storyteller” walking around the space shuttle Explorer and Dr. Ryan Stone a scientist on her first space mission. Working outside the Explorer Dr. Stone is repairing her project while fighting the ill effects of weightlessness on her body.
Suddenly they are told to abort the mission and return to the space shuttle; a satellite has been hit sending debris onto their orbit path. The seriousness and importance of this command becomes evident in a few moments as the debris hits breaking all communication with earth and casting them into the silence of space. Dr. Stone has to untether herself from the shuttle remains that would pull her out further into space. Tumbling around in black nothingness, panicking as she loses all points of reference she makes a desperate cry for help…”Anyone please copy”. And someone does; Matt Kowalski. Coming to her rescue, Matt tethers her to himself and together they use his jet pack to return to the Explorer.
It is here, the gravity of their circumstances become evident. The damages to the shuttle are catastrophic and all the personnel are dead. They are lone survivors; lost in space with no means of getting home.
#2. Archaic. A grave matter.
The only hope the pair have of returning to earth requires a space walk to the Russian space station. In order to keep Dr. Stone’s mind off their dire circumstances, Kowalski inquires about her personal life at home. Her answer is devastating. She calmly recounts how her life was destroyed in a moment similar to the one they have just experienced. A chance accident, a fall ending in the tragic death of her young daughter, at the same time spinning her, the mother off into an empty nothingness. She works and drives; there is no life in her or for her.
The tether which connects Stone and Kowalski looks like an umbilical cord. This is severed as they come close to the Russian station. Dr. Stone’s foot becomes entangled so she remains tied to the station, but as she tries to hang onto Matt he realizes his weight …his gravity... will pull her off too. Calmly he tells her the choice is not hers to make…and he untethers himself from her sacrificing his life to save hers. His last words to her “you’re going to have to learn to let go; your going to have to say….you’ll make it!”
#3 Ponderability (worth serious consideration); also weight.
Alone, inside the Russian space station, space suit removed Dr. Ryan Stone floats like a fetus in a womb. There is no response to her cry for help …” please talk to me please!” Discovering the escape pod is out of fuel she comes to the end of her resources. She is powerless; there is nothing she can do to save herself. Thus she begins to ponder the frightening reality of knowing she has reached the last day of her life…..alone. There is no one to mourn her, or pray for her soul. She sadly laments she has never prayed; no one ever taught her. Hearing a baby cry on earth she decides to end her life and hopefully join her child among the dead.
It is in the “inmost cave “of the greatest ordeal where a hero facing ultimate death often has a revelation which makes possible their resurrection. Ryan Stone has hers when Matt Kowalski shows up in the capsule and tells her “there is always something you can do”. Make a choice…stay where it is safe and you won’t hurt anymore (death) or plant both feet on the ground and start living!
#4. Terrestrial gravitation; specifically the gravitational acceleration of terrestrial bodies toward the center of earth.
The appearance of the man who sacrificed his own life to save hers jolts Ryan Stone out of death’s dark grip. She is immediately alive and choosing life. She starts talking to Matt (as if he is present to her but out of sight) about her little girl. Since he will be with her child that day (she speaks of the child as if alive now), she asks him to relay her message of love to her little angel.
And then she says “Let’s go home.” Now there are only two possibilities for her….she will be home on earth with a great story to tell or she will be with her daughter, either way its life and one hell of a ride!
St. Irenaeus once wrote “the glory of God is man fully alive “There could be no better description of this statement than the blazing balls of glory which are the cinematic highlight of the movie! Ryan Stone in her capsule crosses the threshold and lands in an Eden like setting. Immersed in water she is baptized into a new life. Shedding the space suit as one leaving the garments of death she crawls out of the water on her belly. Of course there is the evolutionary imagery as she moves from amphibian stage of crawling, to standing, and planting both feet on the ground. But one should not miss the Biblical imagery of her grasping the sand /clay in her fists…laughing… and saying “thank you”!
She left home as a “driving” dead person; she passed through death in space and now returns to a new life as a new creation. All because one man sacrificed his life that she might live…that she might be “born from above”. (John 3:16).