“I have always had a fascination with space and space exploration,” states Alfonso Cuarón, the director, producer and co-writer of Warner Bros.’ new dramatic thriller “Gravity.” He continues, “On the one hand, there is something mythical and romantic about the idea of separating yourself from Mother Earth. But in many ways, it doesn’t make sense to be out there when life is down here.”
In “Gravity,” Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in command. But on a seemingly routine mission, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
“Gravity” was co-written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son, Jonás, marking their first official collaboration. “I was inspired by Jonás’s ideas for the movie,” Alfonso says. “I was very intrigued by his sense of pace in a life-or-death situation that dealt primarily with a single character’s point of view. But, at the same time, placing the story in space immediately made it more expansive and offered immense metaphorical possibilities.”
Jonás Cuarón adds, “The concept of space was interesting to us both; it is a setting where there is no easy way to survive, thousands of miles from what we call home, so it was perfect for a movie about surmounting adversities and having to find your way back. We also wanted it to be a realistic story, which required us to do extensive research to become familiar with space exploration in order to depict a plausible scenario.”
The filmmakers soon discovered that they would need to push the boundaries of moviemaking to tell a story that transpires wholly in zero gravity. “I have to say that I was a bit naïve; I thought making the film would be a lot simpler,” Cuarón admits. “Yes, I knew it would require a certain amount of tricks, but it was not until we started trying conventional techniques that I realized in order to do the film the way I wanted to do it, we were going to have to create something entirely new.”
To accomplish that, Cuarón called upon cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber of Framestore. “From the get-go, Chivo, Tim and I decided we wanted everything to look like we took our camera into space. That would have been my dream, but, of course, that’s not feasible,” Cuarón smiles.
Simply put—though there was nothing simple about it—the filmmakers did not want anything akin to a sci-fi fantasy world, but rather to depict the stark realities of being marooned in the harshest environment known to mankind.
That objective turned out to be a game changer.
The filmmakers invented entire systems to generate the illusion of being in space in ways that were both totally convincing and utterly visceral. As a result, “Gravity” is a hybrid of live-action, computer animation and CGI, with sets, backgrounds and even costumes rendered digitally.
“Gravity” had been envisioned from the beginning as a 3D cinematic experience. Jonás Cuarón says, “The concept was always to do this movie in 3D because we wanted people to be truly immersed in the imagery as well as the narrative.”
That said, Alfonso Cuarón emphasizes, “We didn’t want it to be 3D for the sake of things flying in your face. We tried to be subtle…to let you feel like you’re inside the journey.”
Despite all the technological breakthroughs developed in making “Gravity,” the journey that remained the most vital to the cast and filmmakers was the personal one at the heart of the story—particularly that of Ryan, who is alone for a large part of the film.
“For us,” Jonás Cuarón offers, “the meaning of ‘Gravity’ isn’t just what keeps your feet on the ground. It’s the force that is constantly pulling you back home.”
The director affirms, “Throughout the film there are constant visual references of Earth as this beautiful, nurturing place. And floating above it is a woman who is cut off from her nurturing self. We wanted to explore the allegorical potential of a character in space who is spiraling further into the void, a victim of her own inertia, moving away from Earth, where life and human connections reside. Amidst all the tools and effects, we were always clear that Ryan’s struggle is a metaphor for anyone who has to overcome adversity in life and get to the other side. It is a journey of rebirth.”
Opening across the Philippines in Oct. 3 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D, 2D and regular theatres, “Gravity” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.