Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Lost in space

What would we be without vision? Where would we be without imagination? Would we be suspended out in space between heaven and hell? Are we what they call “the Lost Generation”? Indeed we are lost between ideologists and ideology; between imperialism, capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, extremism, fanaticism, terrorism and every other “ism” out there.

Persecuted by one state, we try to flee to another only to find it more uncertain, more perilous.

Our patience is frazzled, our motivation for living is depleted. When they said man has the right to: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, did they mean on this planet?

Disheartened and defeated, as the aching sorrow and the gnawing pain settles permanently in the heart-pit, we look up to the heavens, vast, majestic, unfathomable. Up there we will surely find the answers to the mysteries of the universe.

The lure of space has always fascinated man since his creation. More awesome, more unreachable, with no beginning, no end, no limit, it continues in all directions. It was not long before man tried to explore it, for exploration like imagination is an integral part of humanity. How else can he touch those gleaming jewels of bright gold and brilliant diamonds that twinkle and sparkle above, haunting him, taunting him, on moonlit nights and in the light of day?

What is space? Where is space? Space is the vast three-dimensional region that begins when the earth’s atmosphere ends. Air becomes thinner and thinner as we move away from earth. Where it fades to almost nothing, which is approximately 160km, above the earth’s surface… that is space.

The history of space could be traced to four centuries ago in the 1600s when German scientist Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) developed the laws of the planetary motion that describe the orbits of bodies in space. They are still used today to determine the orbits of artificial satellites and to plan flights of spacecraft. In 1697 Sir Isaac Newton also used Kepler’s work as a basis for his “Laws of Motion”, another cornerstone of space-flight planning.

The mystique of space has not only engaged scientists, it as has not escaped the artists and visionaries. A subject so rich in romance and drama offers a fertile ground for creative minds. No other object so insoluble has been the beneficiary of so much of humanity’s collective imagination as the mysteries of the universe.

Filmmakers have turned to space to entertain, engage and disburden us from earthly anxieties; to smooth our ruffled brow of care and of heartache. From “Space Odyssey” to “Star Wars”, we were transported to forbidden grounds of reverie and fantasy, unimaginable except for the vision of the artist and the medium of film.

This year’s blockbuster is another space odyssey created by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, who has mesmerised audiences many-a-time before with Harry Potter’s Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien, among many others. Gravity is another Cuaron triumph. His characteristic trait is not only always rich with imagination, but it is also an affair of the senses and an affair of the reason. In a perfect blend of fiction, science-fiction and breathless suspense, he assembled a concoction of the choicest piquancy resulting in the ultra-spectacular visual extravaganza worthy of the grandeur and glory of space.

NASA scientist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) floats above the earth in an attempt to fix a glitch in the space station, outside her shuttle, when things start to go very wrong. She can only see her partner in the project through her space suit, a great pity, since he is the dashing, smashing Matt Kowalski, better known as George Clooney. Stranded in space with no air, no sound, no connection to Mission Control with the dreamiest heart-throb in the world, would be a good thing, if it were not so bad. Debris from an exploded Russian satellite is headed their way and Mission Control aborts the mission.

Director Cuaron provides the viewer with what has been described as “13 minutes of extra-terrestrial startle”. First we open wide our eyes and then our mouths. Our knees shake and our heart skips a beat or two. Six hundred kilometres above the earth’s surface, it is a splendid ceremonial into the darkness of space, in a crisis such as the screen has never known. Gravity takes on where Avatar left off.

The presence of Oscar winner Bullock is the jewel in the crown. It has been a few years since audiences enjoyed her self-deprecating humour, profound sensitivity and dark beauty. Since her appearance in Speed, she has afforded us unparalleled chills and thrills. Originally trained as a dancer, her moves in space, though slow, are agile, graceful and lithe, making her tumbling manoeuvres more like a choreographed waltz than a lumbering spin. Bullock has been dubbed a “Space Goddessey”.

Gravity thrills on so many levels as Cuaron displays the beautiful reality of the space world, blending digital technology and human artistry with his full grasp of perception, talent, technique and vision.

Fantasy films borrow from our sub-conscious, our imagination, our fears, and have gradually become our favourite genre of film, drawing more revenues at the box-office than any other.

Plunging ourselves in a fantasy world, no matter how startling, is more soothing than the political and economic anxieties of our present reality.

Why not seek refuge in that towering marvel from the vision of Alfonso Cuaron.


“The heavens call to you and circle around you, displaying to you their eternal splendours; and your eyes gaze only to earth”.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

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