Science Fiction and Emotional Porn: the Unemployed Experience Gravity on and off Screen

It is not very difficult to understand why Gravity drove so many people mad: the film depicts with dark vigour a deeply familiar, global and pansexual genre of nightmare – the asphyxiating grip of disorientation– the inability to know how to navigate yourself in the world: ''I am losing the earth under my feet'', '' I do not know what to do with my life'', ''I am lost',' ''Someone should talk to me on the phone now -please speak to me'', '' Darkness is swallowing me'', ''I can't breathe'' ''Save me''. Here comes a choreography of panic – a plotless horror-story which looks like a plotless life-story, or else, an allegory of terror on earth – a life-script composed out of random images and fragments of thoughts that swirl in a reverse orbit around your mind -- when you body swirls sleepless around itself at bed during an endless night.


The pattern of this nightmare is very simple: A screwdriver or a spark or a flying piece pops up suddenly and stretches the thread of your life like a sling. In this respect, Gravity reminded me of an old Iranian film about child who was trapped in an apartment and struggled to find a way to get out. I was myself a child when I watched it, so I do not remember the title of the film – but I remember very well its (non-)plot due to its ability to re-enact the psychological and biological havoc I was going through whenever I blundered. You do not always need 'bad' characters to live a drama – absent- mindedness, misfortune and lack of reflexes can easily let your life slip through your hands and burst – with a muffled bang – in the gap. What we call '' tragedy ''is not always produced by the moral conflict between victims and violators – Antigone and Kreon or Cordellia and Edmund – it is also ignited by random errors, gaffes and clumsy shit-moments. A car crash, a tripping over the stairs, a cell that fell from the pocket can radically change the gravity of time -- the rhythm of your breathing --and the overall way you live in your body.

It is not necessary to watch all that in a 3D IMAX screen in order to grasp that vibe. It might actually be funnier (and cheaper) to download the film and watch it on your mobile phone whilst lying on a moving swing or a seesaw or - even better – whilst flipping upside-down on a fairground crane. Inspired by this synaesthetic ping-pong between the screen, the earth and our nerves, I want to explain here in what way science fiction is haunted by what I call emotional porn – or else, an exhibitionistic intercourse between erotic dreams and futuristic nightmares. To put in another way, I want to speak about he sensational encounter between an American blockbuster film and the cultural as well as sexual sock of material misery and erotic desolation.

The film represents the way in which your body represents fear within a dream – it is a representation of a representation that takes the form of dream within a dream; one that unfolds on screen with no gabs and delays, in a fast-pasted and spectacular way – or else – 'in the American way' that ''fit us all''. The act of floating in space evokes the way you move when you dream: sometimes you want to run -- but your feet refuse to wiggle - and some other times you play backgammon with gravity – your body goes up and down – flies and lands – as if you were the dice in the handful of an invisible player. What is terrific in n this case is that the super-physical powers and the bleakest version of a body-in-dream are simultaneously combined. The heroes sail in space with the grace of a ballet dancer or the serenity of a baby in the wet pocket of his mum -- and at the same moment – their bodies freeze, lose their breath and get smashed into pieces. Hyper-space re-stages and violates the sensation of a dream-space.



Just like in a dream -- in the movie, when you grab something it changes into something else or turns into pieces.. Just like in thriller - so in a dream - every act is interrupted by another.: something always happens and the completion of an action is recurrently postponed As is well-known no dream has ever ended: its closure is always crushed by a sudden awakening - which in turn sets in motion a new succession of idyllic and horrific scenes. The boundaries between waking and sleeping is not fixed. The alarm, for example, might remind you that you do not live in the world of nightmare - but it immediately lands you in the nightmare of morning work (or unemployment) -- alarm is simultaneously the soundtrack of awakening and daydreaming-- a signal of resubmission to the sleep-walking mechanics of the daily routine. It is a transitory sound-scape, one that heralds relief and anxiety – an end and a beginning. In the similar way, in a sci-fi thriller – hyper space is simultaneously the setting of dream and nightmare -- it fades away and is then re-animated all over again – even when the final act of transition, the return to earth, is accomplished


The landing scenes mix the ecstasy of relief with the restarting of a disaster - the bottom of the sea re-enacts the atmospheric discontents of hyperspace (lack of oxygen , levitation and trapping). The mainland -- the ultimate goal – opens up before the bare feet of the protagonist - like a virgin and wild environment - a new setting of threat and awe - equally scary and exotic with the hypnotic landscape of the hyperspace. Sleep and waking - fire and water - land and air – pour themselves into each other. The film does not actually end -- we do not know what the protagonist will do in order to survive on earth. Even more so, we do not know what the viewer would do after leaving the movie theatre. You keep on walking out of the cinema hall knowing that the earth is a field of forces that you cannot control -- a spider-web of actions and reactions that spreads around you as if you were a stoned fly.


The most impressively three-dimensional effect of this film is fear: Here comes a movie without a plot - a moving image with no story. It inspires a sense of awe as sudden, deep and bizarre as the one you felt when confronted with the tablecloths purchased by your grandma in a street-fair (visualize hunting scenes in the wild forest) or  children's crafted art on mourning ('' my mum grew butterfly-wings and flew away from the hospital'') or the dream-graphic diary of a psychotic – or a 'fool for Christ' - who experiences the fall as flight and vice versa. Above all, therefore this is modernized biography of martyrdom -- a new form of hagiography – one that re-stages human suffering in hyper-pace – re-adapting for the screen the psycho-psychogeography of the desert. This the desert of the Bible but also the desert of the American western: the main male character listens to country music, talks like as cowboy and rides through space as if he was riding a horse.

In moments of utter despair, the camera focuses on traditional religious objects: a small Russian-Byzantize Hagiography (in the Russian spacecraft ) and a Buddha (in the Chinese). In the following scenes, the hagiography turns into a portraiture of love. The astronaut who was thought dead returns unexpectedly out of the window and prevents the protagonist from suicide. The astronaut is George Clooney – who is essentially playing himself. He evokes the cool star who descends from the screen: here the spacecraft's window works brilliantly as a metaphor for the cinematic or televisual screen. Radio frequencies -- received from earth – lull the protagonist. The miraculous arrrival of the 'man' gives the answer the problem. Then the stoned protagonist/spectator wakes up and realizes that her savior was a hallucination. This is a self- reflective comment in disguise. Without blocking the suspense - cinema reflects on cinema by dramatizing the illusory substance of its stardom and the gender ''of its (dis-)illusioned believers. Here comes a dream speaks about a dream – or else, a dream that teaches you how to escape from a nightmare.


The message-that-saves is spelled by the imaginary lover - the star , the saint of the screen, the new god. In deep contrast with the Biblical story Adam and Eve though, his figure is made out of the bowels of the ' weak sex ', meaning, out of the protagonist's erotic and fearful impulses. She saves herself through her own immersion into hallucination -- she speaks (to her own mind) through the 'spectacular' male body of her fantasies. In this way, Hollywood seems to situate itself against the religious imagery of post - communist countries (Russia and China). Semi - ironically and semi - dramatically – in accordance with the ambivalent face expressions of Clooney – the screen announces: I am the erotic opium of my viewers - and indeed, I am a dream that can be seen with the eyes wide open.

At the same time, the material culture of the film playfully winks at the erotic face of the present -- the current interface culture of eroticism – the cyber-galactic windows of the Internet, Facebook and Whisper: the new erotic Bibles of the poor. We are trapped in our rooms like in space capsules – we paint the illusory faces of our lovers through whispers, pictures and radio frequencies. We build erotic profiles out of our transmedia hallucinations. And when all seems to be lost, we allow them to ride our mind as if they were space-cowboys. Then we wake up - give a slap on our rump -- and run without saddle in the 'desert of the real.'


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