Gravity opens with the longest, loveliest view of our pearlescent planet, so large and luminous — and behind it black space. The Earth is our home, our heart, our mother — but what happens when we cut the cord that ties us to her?
(Spoiler alert. Pretty much all is revealed.)
Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first mission in space. We first see her floating in the darkness, struggling to fix something on the outside of the Hubble telescope, as much part of the machine as one of its metal protuberances.
We, briefly, meet her colleagues Shariff (Phaldut Sharma), another scientist, and Lieutenant Matthew Kowalski (George Clooney), an old space hand who describes himself as the bus driver. Kowalski floats around the Hubble propelled by a jet pack, yakking cosily to mission control in Houston. Shariff succeeds in whatever techno-twiddle he’s been sent to make… Stone struggles feeling ill in zero gravity.
Then catastrophe. A cloud of space debris catapults into them, killing Shariff outright, devastating the Hubble and sending Stone head over heels into the dark, over and over again, until up is down and down is up. She is lost in space. Hyperventilating, terrified.
|The Apollo astronauts’
called the Mercury.
Thus begins a long journey home, back to the bosom of Mother Earth, and out of the darkness through air, fire and water.
At first, Stone (another way of saying Earth, of course) is guided by Kowalski, who talks to her to keep her alert. Like Mercury, Kowalski is a storyteller. He has so many stories, and it’s through stories that he’s maintained his humanity in this most dehumanising environment, kept his connection to the Mother, to home.
Kowalski loves the planet.
That’s what I’m gonna miss the most. So where’s home, Dr. Stone? Ryan, where’s home?
Mm-hm. Down there. Mother Earth.
Somebody down there looking up,
thinking about you? Ryan?
RYAN I had a daughter.
Matt glances at the mirror affixed to his wrist. The mirror on his wrist depicts the reflection of Ryan.
She was four. She was at school playing tag. Slipped, hit her head, and that was it. Stupidest thing. I was driving when I got the call, so… ever since then, that’s what I do. I wake up, I go to work, and I just drive.
|Sandra Bullock as Dr Ryan Stone. Lonely, sad, human.
“What kind of name is that for a girl? My father wanted a boy.”
And this is the point when we realise that Stone is a mother in the deepest despair. She is stone-still grieving: a mother unmothered. She has already suffered one catastrophe that sent her world upside down and, maybe that’s why she signed up for this space mission. Her freefall through the blackness of space is a replay of her freefall through grief.
All the sadness is written on Bullock’s face. Her performance has been deservedly celebrated. She expresses anguish, confusion, grief, anger, alienation and loss in the smallest ways.
Bullock has Lilith, the point of unmothering, conjunct Ceres, the bereft mother, exactly on
her descendant in the sign of Sagittarius, the traveller. Almost directly opposite, in Cancer, the sign of the mother, at 1°, she has her North Node. She was destined to play the orphaned mother.
(Bullock is tremendously hard-working actress: note Saturn on the MC. I wonder if her own mother taught Bullock the value of hard work (Ceres in the 6th). She has a really tough chart — look at the Grand Cross — but that Saturn actually helps her deal with the harsh aspects. It gives her drive, ambition, focus.)
This is a high-point in her career as Neptune, the planet of glamour, sweeps over her MC and Saturn in Pisces. She is embodying that Neptune in Pisces in this part. Saturn is all about making it real. Neptune is a dream, a vision. Bullock has an absolute solidity, an earthiness. It’s partly this contrast between her strong physicality and the dreamy vision of space in Gravity that makes the film so powerful.
There are a few scenes of Bullock in her androgynous underwear floating like a foetus in the womb of a space machine. So there’s also the contrast between her human flesh and the cold metal: Moon opposite Uranus. But then she becomes part machine when she dons the spacesuit: a hybrid.
One of the themes of this current decade-long transit of Neptune through Pisces is the power of the movies. We can look back now at more than 100 years of cinema and see the glory of this art form. When historians a couple of centuries from now write about the 20th century will they mention Picasso or Hirst? Maybe. Will they be discussing Hollywood? Without a shadow of a doubt. Film was and is, the great contribution to the story of art in our time. And Gravity has just taken it on a level, technically. This is the first 3D movie that makes total sense of its third dimension. The last Neptune in Pisces saw two important movements in European visual art: Realism (Courbet, Millet) and the Pre-Rapahelites. These were two movements that were hyper-real, sometimes almost hallucinatory.
Bullock is a member of the Uranus-Pluto in Virgo generation born during the Space Race. Now forty-odd years on Uranus and Pluto square each other and some of the results of that race are simple everyday facts of our lives — like all those shuttles floating around Mother Earth so we can send each other messages on Facebook, and people going up to fix those shuttles for us. Gravity is one of the first space movies to be set in our own time — not in the past (e.g. Apollo 11) or some distant future (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey), but right now.
As well as Uranus and Pluto returning to a hard aspect right now, we have Chiron returning to Pisces, where it was in the 1960s when space flight became real, and when both the stars and the director of Gravity were born.
Chironic themes weave through this movie.
With that he is gone. His job as guide done — almost — since he returns in a vision to help Stone at her lowest ebb. Previously, I have written about this phrase of Mandela’s “I am prepared to die” in explaining some of the meaning of Chiron. This is where Chiron takes (some of) us, to the point of sacrifice, the point of absolutely letting go, to the realisation that you have no control. But here’s the paradox: only when you are prepared to die, can you really begin to live.
George Clooney is currently having his Chiron Return. Not only that, Chiron is approaching his 12° Pisces Ascendant now. (Again, such a hard worker, look at the Moon-Saturn conjunction in Capricorn.) What is Chiron in Pisces – a sacrifice, yes, someone who heals through sacrifice.
Outer space is a a metaphor for inner space. As space is infinite, so our souls are infinite. But to navigate our way through inner space, we need mind (Mercury), we need stories. Kowalski is an angel, he is also Stone’s own mind, her Mercury. Bullock’s Jupiter (the guru, her own wisdom) is well-placed in the 12th house. Clooney’s Mercury conjuncts that Jupiter.
Alfonso Cuarón, the film’s director, is the same age as Clooney, so they have the same outer-planetary corps de ballet including Jupiter in Aquarius, Neptune in Scorpio (currently transited by Saturn), and Uranus opposite Chiron (currently transited by Neptune, the moviemaker’s planet). So Cuarón made a movie about Chiron.
But you’re asking “What about the asteroid Ceres?” She is the goddess of the Earth, and the goddess of all bereaved parents. The story of Dr Ryan’s lost daughter is a distant echo of the story of Persephone. Surely Ceres is important here too.
|Cuarón’s birthtime is unknown.|
Cuarón’s Ceres conjuncts Clooney’s Sun, so Clooney is representing Cuarón’s own Ceres for him. He shines a light on it. Sandra Bullock’s Ceres is at 23° Sagittarius conjunct her Lilith and exactly opposite the Venus-ASC-Mars-NN knot in the storytelling Gemini. In fact both Sagittarius and Gemini are talkers, communicators.
Like Bullock, Cuaron has a close opposition between Venus and Ceres, across that intense axis Taurus-Scorpio. Clooney has an applying conjunction between the two planets. So where Bullock and Cuaron experience dynamic tension between these two energies, Clooney brings them together. Put simply Venus is love and Ceres is nurturing or mothering.
There is something about Clooney (or at least his persona) that is both childish and nurturing. He is often best when he plays a kind of mothering role — as in The Descendants or even in ER, the TV show which brought him to fame and in which he played a paediatrician. Like Bullock, he actually has quite a tough chart — not quite a Grand Cross, but difficult oppositions nevertheless. Neptune is currently on his South Node, which conjuncts Bullock’s MC and Cuarón’s Chiron.
Neptune and Chiron: space and sacrifice.
Ryan Stone’s journey back to the Mother Planet is a spiritual one. This is clearly signalled by the icons of the Buddha and St Christopher which she sees at the Russian and Chinese satellites from which she tries to get back to earth. This is the realm of Neptune, this world of spirit, and in fact this outer space seems much more to be the world of Neptune than say, Uranus or Pluto. Ryan is struggling with God or god. Like so many of us, she has never learned how to pray, and yet that is really what she needs to do now.
Luckily, she has a guardian angel in a space suit.
She arrives on Earth in a lake or a creek. This is her final trial, a cleansing in fresh water. She steps like the first woman in the world, like a new Eve, onto the sandy shore, and the camera angle makes her look like a god.
If you had any doubts about the themes of this movie take a look at the composite chart of director and actors. Venus and Ceres are united at 20° Pisces. Jupiter is at 10° Pisces and Chiron at 8°. Pisces is the sign of spirituality, the collective unconscious, of sacrifice. It’s ruled by Neptune, of course, which sits exactly on the angle of partnership. No wonder the film is such a success. And look at all those planets in the 5th house of entertainment.
On the night of the Oscars, March 2 2014, Venus will be on the MC and tr Jupiter will trine Jupiter and tr Sun will conjunct Jupiter. Gravity is going to be hard to beat.
Gravity is sublime –- beauty and terror – and it is pure cinema, just under two hours of emotion and power that can never be expressed except on film.