23 October 2013


This was both better and worse than I expected, knowing almost nothing about it. It perhaps helped that I spent two hours discussing Deleuze and film theory beforehand -- I was primed to really appreciate thoughtful cinematic composition, and oh boy did this movie deliver. Especially good, because I did not realize that I was going into a movie that was largely monologue (and by monologue I mean Sandra Bullock saying oh shit oh shit oh shit), and might have been annoyed if I were in a less pensive mood.

So, the flaws first. The dialogue is pretty weak. The characters are pretty annoying, to the extent that you don't quite care enough about them. The plot is kind of one damn thing after another: essentially, it's a movie about flailing around. You can't help but feel vaguely frustrated that the only woman (admittedly, there aren't many people period, but it's still notable to have a female astronaut after all) is sickly, complaining, anxious, emotional, uptight, and basically everything a stereotypical annoying girl would be, in space. And of course, whenever possible, she strips down to her skivvies, and we watch her (quite attractive) butt float around. Meanwhile, the movie also gets quite sappy in the most American, Hollywoody way, and seriously why did it need to do that.

But! But. Wow. What a brilliant meditation on space. Both outer space, relative space, the way that film portrays space... Best use of the 3D medium ever, perhaps. Absolutely ingenious use of sound. I actually want to watch the movie again, and pay attention to it more carefully. Fantastic, for instance, the way the focus shifts, and gives you a sense of the enormity of space through a kind of reverse relativization: here you have Sandra Bullock, who is freaking out, literally in an echo chamber of her own panicked voice, and suddenly, the focus pans to a single tear she is crying, wobbling through the gravity-free area before her. So clever. And the movie does it a few times, jumping between the vast space around her, the claustrophobic space immediately around her, and the microcosm of an entirely uninterested object in its own little world beside her. It's really, really interesting. So that's what I mean by relative space; how the movie manages to evoke entirely different scales and shift between them.

Relatedly, there's outer space, and just how amazingly vast it is, and how that gets into a level of unknowability/abstraction that you kind of start to drift, and who knows what the rules are any more. And the only thing that can even compare is the labyrinth of your own mind, and the two start to collapse into each other.

And then, there's the way film portrays space, namely, the way the 3D makes you feel all floaty and weird, and like things are coming at you, and you're awkwardly fumbling for them.

Yes, it's sappy, and yes, the characters are annoying and the dialogue is dumb. But you need to see it, and you should do so in a theater.

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