Gravity Movie Analysis (SPOILERS): Science, Symbolism and Spirituality
If you’ve read my Gravity movie review, you’ll know that I loved the film and you’ll also know that the film is a visual masterpiece and a cinematic experience like nothing I’ve ever seen. What the review didn’t really touch on in great detail was the huge amount of symbolism in the film, as well as the clear themes of science, religion, faith and the power of humanity. Sounds like a lot to be squeezed into a 90 minute film that is very light on dialogue. But it is full to the brim. This, more detailed Gravity movie analysis, delves into my thoughts on what director Alfonso Cuaron was trying to portray.
Please be aware, SPOILERS follow! Don’t read until you’ve seen the film!
Religion, Nihilism, Humanism and Faith
The first theme I noticed becomes quickly visible when we find out about the death of Dr. Stone’s 4-year old daughter, and we become aware that she is a woman that feels completely alone in the world. It becomes clear that she is losing faith and hope in herself and humanity.
She lacks confidence, constantly talking about her inability to do things, or her past failures, for example landing the pods during training. She is terrified to lose Kowalski, in the fear that she cannot survive without him, and also in the fear of being completely alone in life again.
Her worrisome, fearful mindset is highlighted by the way she constantly updates Kowalski on her oxygen levels. He doesn’t seem concerned, because he knows that he will save her. She doesn’t believe in him at that point but he clearly believes in himself, and he is confident in his skills. While he does not give off a feeling of being religious, he certainly believes in the universe. He appears to represent the idea of humanism, as he believes in himself as a human being and he shows no fear in the face of danger. Why should he?
The stories he tells, and the clear admiration that those on the radio have for him express him as very accomplished, and show that he has enjoyed his life. He is content to let the universe decide his fate, and if he does his best to survive, he probably will. If he doesn’t, so be it.
This is evident as he continues to help Stone over the radio, with no inclination that his impending death worries him. When we see him reappear later, we don’t know if he represents God, humanity or is simply Stone drawing on her admiration of the man himself. Either way, it works.
What we see is Stone regain her faith in life in general, and Kowalski combined with the voice of a man back on earth seem to make her want to live on. While I think Stone’s change of heart isn’t necessarily supposed to symbolize her finding her religion, what is interesting is the quick shot of the Buddha statue that we see. To me this represents that fact that it doesn’t matter what she believes in. She could find her faith in Christianity, Buddhism, humanity or even herself. What matters, is that she found it.
Some of the film’s most blatant and your face symbolism occurs when Stone makes it back to the base, and removes her space suit. She immediately floats into the fetal position and we see her remain that way for an extended shot, as if she has returned to an invisible womb. At this point, she has survived the first test and it is as if she is being taken back to the start. She is becoming a blank slate, with the chance that she can re-write herself and go on with her life.
She isn’t quite ready at this point though, as we learn when she attempts her silent suicide. However, Kowalksi’s intervention puts an end to that, and restores her belief OR prevents her from committing the sin of suicide, if you’re taking the religious angle.
Upon her return to earth, we see her desperate drive to live and to survive, as she fights relentlessly to get out of the ocean floor and reach the surface. At this point, nothing will stop her, and we see her grab the earth say “thank you.” Who is she speaking to? It could be her newly found god, it could be some unknown entity, it could be the universe. It could even simply be Kowalski. We will never know, which is part of the film’s genius.
As we watch Stone rise from the dirt, into a landscape that is just pure, unfiltered and beautiful. It represents the fact that the whole world is in front of her, and is a blank canvas for which she can build whatever she pleases, in the same way humanity has done for years. There is another clear sense of humanism here. The world is at her feet. Not the other way around, it seems.
Evolution vs Creationism
The last point in my Gravity film analysis is perhaps the strongest. Along the same vein as the previous section, the final shots of the film seem to touch heavily on the theme of evolution. Stone’s rise from the dirt is essentially a sped up version of the evolutionary process that we see illustrated in any biological textbook. However, the final shot does not directly seem to make a point AGAINST creationism. It seems that Stone’s ‘Thank You’ even opens the door for the idea of a higher power.
What I take from this is that our director isn’t saying that one is right or one is wrong. What it looks like to me is an attempt to say that both ideas can live together, intertwine. This is evident through the entire film. There is certainly a spiritual aspect and certainly a scientific aspect. There’s also a very personal, humanistic aspect. Whatever combination of divine work and science occurred, the result was humanity, and humanity is pretty damn awesome.
I hope you enjoyed my Gravity movie analysis, and I implore you to go watch this film. If you’ve seen it, go again. The great thing about a film like this is that it can be different every time you see it, depending on the context you see it in.
My thoughts, personally? Don’t give up. Have faith. Believe in whatever god, spirit or leader you want to, but if nothing else at all, believe in yourself and believe in humanity. That’s the message I take from Gravity, and I can’t wait to see it again.
There are a variety of other theories and thoughts below: