I finally managed to get my daughter into a cinema to watch?Gravity with me over the weekend, and I was astonished by it. If you haven’t seen it, get to a cinema. I say that because I think it requires that?kind?of canvas. The?gogglebox in the living room isn’t a big enough world.
It’s a film with immense power and sophistication in its storytelling. I’ve always been a sucker for a big gleaming American narrative, with its inevitabilities and its remorselessness. In the hands of a non-American like Alfonso Cuar?n, who must have grown up with Hollywood narratives but on the outside of them, as it were, those narrative structures are renewed by a shifted sensibility and reemerge as something beautiful. So powerful are they that they exert a force which is, yes, gravitational.
One part of this storytelling power comes from the film’s effortless use of psychic distance. This was pointed out by Shelley Harris on Twitter yesterday:
One more thing abt #Gravity then I’ll shut up: writers, if you want to know abt psychic distance, look at the shots in that film. Exemplary.
? Shelley Harris (@shelleywriter) November 25, 2013
Psychic distance is beautifully explored by Emma Darwin in this blogpost, where she says this:
The important thing for this post is to understand that fiction is polyvocal. Different voices – the narrator’s and the characters’ – combine to make the narrative, interpenetrating each other to different degrees depending on the psychic distance at that moment.
And while this is beautifully expressed in the movie, I think it’s also significant that Cuar?n’s son and co-writer Jonas Cuar?n was able to explore this idea through a short film which shows the other end of one particularly poignant conversation in the film. Don’t watch it until you’ve seen Gravity. But if you have, you’ll find a beautiful example of how stories can be told from infinite numbers of viewpoints, and each telling adds something else. And if you want to see more of this stuff at work in a similar setting with the same narrative heft, watch Moon. Right now.