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Movie Gravity, vertigo, and our loneliness (by Tomáš Sedláček)

The most remarkable thing of the current hit movie Gravity is not the visual effects, but the scary relation of proximity to distance and solitude.  No other film has captured so dizzily, the sense of giddiness of being infinitely far being within close reach. The infinite distance begins right in close, intimate distances from me - and not just in one direction (down), but in all directions.
The dizziness topic became a great inspiration for Hitchcock's films (always someone falls from some point, whether physical or psychological) but also the song Vertigo from U2. The giddiness derived from the depth is also the theme of an older film,Abyss (1989), namely the underwater depth.

Gravity is mainly about death, about the desire for (but practical impossibility) human proximity, about the meaning of life, which brings completely different dimensions beyond the earth. It is also about the completely unnecessary desire of the main character to return to the earth, even though nothing or nobody is waiting for him. Similar to our questions concerning stellar infinity, is the universal questions about the meaning of human life; what is the message of the human story?

A similar theme can be found in the film Abyss, although the story is set in the depths of the ocean, again a place very distant to people, it is essentially about human closeness. On board is coincidentally met the divorcing couple who especially hate each other and try to avoid each other, as is sometimes the case. And even though they try to communicate, it does not work. Until the situation when the main character is infinitely deep, at depths where no man before him ever was, of course, already dying and not communicating, only in this moment of this never-ending separation are they capable to be close to each other when they are not even sure if the other person hears each other’s words. A similar theme is repeated in the movie Gravity, two people (the only actors in the film) in the empty void of the universe become closer just while they are distant. Needless to say that even Hitchcock's films are struggling with dizziness in particular the radical difficulty and drama underlying interpersonal relationships.


Quite distant proximity

Thereby is offered a topic of close range (technically) and distant proximity (interpersonally). Interestingly, both are dizzy. We suffer endless desire for closeness, but it is for some reason impossible - as relating to another person, or to himself, or to ontological questions. After all, ever since the Garden of Eden there is the story of how a man freshly created by God - and created for the relationship - feels alone, even in the presence of God. This feeling of loneliness occurs before (!) primary sin, before the fall and cannot be regarded as human error.

Once we as a humankind thought that heaven is near (in both senses, physically and spiritually, "The Kingdom of God is near"), but depths are deep. Therefore fear, whether of Leviathan or of floods, has sprung from the darkness of the sea. Now we are haunted by a different distance, the cosmic. And this is from where aliens come; aliens who want to control us or infiltrate us for some reason. After all, in one interpretation, we are the intruders: soul, intelligence, language that came from heaven and possessed the body of the animal and began to control it (this interpretation, is offered by Stanley Kubrick in the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey). After all, within an ecological utopia it sometimes seems that we are aliens in this otherwise harmonious planet.

A final interpretation of dizziness, which is posed by U2 in their song Vertigo: "is dark / the jungle is your head / cannotrule your heart." In other words, Dizziness comes not from outside but from the cosmic distances within us (a confusing jungle), in this case between the brain and the heart.


Thrown into the world

Perhaps this is what Nietzsche had on his mind when he wrote his famous "when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you”. We can find our mirrors in there, in the depths or heights; in obscurity, because we are strangers. The problem is far from the fact that man does not understand God, the world and the people around him, the problem is that he does not understand himself. Not that those crazy abysmal distances are just beyond me - a man finds himself faced with a new sense of dizziness with each new scientific findings about the depths and heights around us and in us - they are in us. Whether physically (because subatomic depth is dizzily in us) or psychologically. One must necessarily feel more and more thrown into the world, like Camus’ stranger, more distant and inappropriately dislocated where the hell are the others, just the man himself, when he is alone.

This was beautifully said by the Czech philosopher Jan Sokol, when commenting on the termination of the NASA space program: “the only thing we have discovered in the universe is our own planet. We discovered her blatant and infinity uniqueness, our emptiness and pan galactic loneliness, dizziness waiting us in the very near closeness and we can only live here, on this small island of life, everywhere else is just death for us. The fact we have to worry about it is fragile and beautiful. And that it is, in the known universe, the only thing that is ours, human, cozy, friendly - and the only planet which we are responsible for.


About the Author: Tomáš Sedláček (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at ČSOB. He served as a non-political expert advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic, with special responsibility over fiscal consolidation and the reform of the tax, pension, and healthcare systems. He also served as an economic advisor then-president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. (www.tomassedlacek.cz)