If you’re looking for a visual representation of the general condition of contemporary humanity, look no further than the disconnected and isolated astronaut floating aimlessly out into space from this Hollywood film.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, recently released on DVD (February 25), uses stunning visual effects and thought-provoking artistic symbolism to paint a telling portrait of modern man. And what exactly does the film tell us about ourselves?
That we feel lost. That we’re drifting through life with no real sense of direction, and despite the constant “noise” of our society, that in reality we exist in something of a vacuum. We’re calling out into the silent void, praying that someone – anyone – will come to show us a better way.
Dr. Ryan Stone – A Soul Adrift
The film centers around Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical researcher performing a routine space walk in earth’s orbit. Without warning, catastrophe strikes and Stone finds herself alone and drifting helplessly into space. The film contains very little dialogue, but what is said gives us the feeling that Stone has been “drifting” through life for years now, and that this intense battle for survival serves as a necessary wake-up call.
“No one will mourn for me,” Stone mutters to herself midway through the film. “No one will pray for my soul. Will you mourn for me? Will you pray for me? I mean I’d pray for myself, but I’ve never prayed…nobody ever taught me how.”
This lost astronaut is a powerful and haunting image, one that serves as a modern version of the illustration Scripture employs of a lost sheep:
“Seeing the people, He (Jesus) felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” – Mark 9:36
It’s disturbing to watch another human float helplessly out of reach, but it’s something we can all relate to. At one point in time, you see, all human beings feel this way…
Finding Our Center of Gravity
The film ends with a beautiful paradox, one that gives rich meaning to the title of the production. As long as Ryan Stone is weightless in the emptiness of space, her spirit is weighed down with the heaviness of grief, fear, and utter despair. In the film’s final moments, however, she finds herself struggling to stand to her feet due to Earth’s gravitational pull. In spite of the fact that her body has now become heavy, her spirit is finally free to soar.
I think the film director is onto something here: while we tell ourselves that what we need most is independence, nothing could be more false. What we need most is connection – not only to each other, but to our Maker. We need something to keep us grounded, to help life make sense. We need a Center of Gravity.
We need God.
Though we feel alone sometimes, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Jesus is always near, reaching out to all of His lost sheep (and drifting astronauts) with arms wide open, asking us to take His hand. He can lead us to peace and safety, if we’ll just trust Him.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Some of the film’s most excruciating moments depict a lost and drifting astronaut making a futile attempt to contact someone – anyone – on their radio. “Hello?” Nothing but silence. “Anybody?” The long, deafening finality of more silence.
Those of us who are Christians and have found our Center of Gravity in Christ should be greatly moved by scenes such as this. Our world is full of lost and drifting souls, and they too are calling out into the void, “Hello? Is anybody listening? Can anybody help me?…Will anybody help me?”
It’s a question only we can answer. But one thing is certain – we have the ability to offer someone a lifeline, to help them find their source of gravity and regain spiritual balance. All we have to do is be willing to answer their faint distress calls.
Of course, we could close our eyes and pretend not to hear them – but the vivid image of a lone astronaut, hopelessly adrift, will forever continue to haunt us.