With Gravity’s highly anticipated release this upcoming weekend, Oscar-nominated writer and director Alfonso Cuaron (Y tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men) sat down with David Poland from Movie City News to discuss how Gravity came to light.
Shortly after Alfonso and his Gravity co-writer, his son Jonas Cuaron, had a script fall apart, they tried their luck a second time. Alfonso had aspired to create “a very tight story, only two characters in a hostile environment” with “a very intense emotional journey” using metaphor rather than rhetoric or dialogue. Jonas happened to be working on a screenplay with similar elements. So after some discussion about where the world of this story would take place, they decided on space. Three weeks later they had their first draft and so Gravity began its departure.
Before Gravity left for takeoff, Alfonso had the desire for adversity to stand as the key thematic element driving the story forward. From the moment of inception, the film seemed to emulate circumstances in Alfonso’s life, reflecting his own personal struggle. He took those emotions and infused them into the entire filmmaking process, from beginning to end. During development of the script, he had been recovering from a divorce and a brief hiatus from filmmaking after moving to London and losing financing on another project. When the script for Gravity was completed in 2009, it took two and a half years to put the technology in place, which generated negative buzz about the film throughout Hollywood. On top of that was the 3-D rendering which added an additional two years to creating the film, which to no shock didn’t make Warner Bros. too happy. It was one hurdle after the next, yet Alfonso believed that as all these adversities grew, somehow the lighter they became and less difficult to bear.
Metaphorically speaking, this is the same journey the main character in the film seems to mirror. Her struggle begins when during a routine spacewalk she finds herself separated from the space station after debris from another satellite crashes into the space shuttle, leaving her stranded in space with little air supply. Things continue to get worse as more debris destroys the remaining satellites, cutting off all communication between the other astronaut and Mission Control. Both astronauts continue to transmit “in the blind” with hope that Mission Control can hear them, although they receive no messages back. The chain reaction of the “what else could go wrong” scenario builds as fear of the unknown begins to penetrate the character’s psyche as she slips away into the darkness of the void. Alfonso’s decision to use outer space as the backdrop for the theme of adversity seems to symbolize that the human experience is often a lonely one when dealing with immense suffering or trauma. It can be isolating and overwhelming to feel that you are being faced with more than you can handle and the realization you may not make it out out alive.
Gravity upon landing ultimately leads us to this parallel. Our human existence is rapidly changing, just as the environment in the film swiftly moves from chaos to eery silence. When faced with adversity, the struggle may be ours alone. If it carries us far enough away from the roots that ground us, the silent weightlessness will leave us longing to be pulled back to earth, however sad and complicated it may be. Alfonso Cuaron took the anguish he was coping with and channeled it into his writing to create a metaphoric story about survival in the face of adversity. His message: never give up; have hope and in the end persistence will prevail.
Gravity opens nationwide today.