[NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. If you have not seen the film and do not want to be spoiled, turn away now.]
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity quickly became one of the most well-received and buzzed-about movies of 2013 – drawing steady theater traffic since its debut at the beginning of October. Last weekend, in its seventh week at the box office, Gravity was still earning solid numbers, beating out high profile titles including Ender’s Game and Captain Phillips, securing another $6 million in domestic ticket sales. As a result, the film has brought in (so far) over $516 million worldwide on a reported $110 million budget.
While scientists may have disputed some of the film’s logistics, audiences and our own Kofi Outlaw (read our 5/5 review) have praised the film for its spectacle, immersive action, and beautiful visuals. However, one element of the movie that has been a source of division among moviegoers is the central storyline surrounding Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who spends much of her downtime petrified by the thought of death. Whether or not you felt the character moments were heavy-handed or emotionally impactful, one particular scene is now the source of a short film spin-off from Cuarón’s own son, Jonás Cuarón – who sought to tell the other side of Stone’s long-distance call with “Aningaaq.”
Jonás Cuarón co-wrote Gravity with his father, so it’s appropriate that the budding filmmaker is the man behind this tie-in short – which, in keeping with his father’s mega-successful feature, is now enjoying its own Oscar buzz.
For anyone who has yet to watch Gravity, but is interested in the context for the short film, Alfonso Cuarón’s third acts sees Stone alone in a stalled Russian escape capsule. Accepting that she has no hope of rescue, Stone attempts to contact NASA and the Chinese space station Tiangong to no avail. Instead, she lands on the radio frequency of a man named Aningaaq, who Stone presumes is safe and sound on Earth, enjoying time with his happily yipping dog and crying baby. The moment is a stark juxtaposition to Stone’s isolated and despondent situation in space. Facing death, Stone switches off the life-support in the Russian pod and decides to “go to sleep” listening to the peaceful sounds of Aningaaq and his happy life on Earth.
However, according to Jonás Cuarón’s tie-in, a few key details were lost in translation.
Check out the Aningaaq short film for yourself below (courtesy of THR):
Interestingly, while neither Stone nor Aningaaq (played by Orto Ignatiussen) fully understand what is happening on the other end of their respective lines, both characters are facing similar thematic challenges – the fear that comes with uncertainty in death, the pain of letting go, as well as the choice to end a life (be it a loved one or thyself). As a result, the Aningaaq short serves as an interesting and thought-provoking companion to the Gravity feature – one that should continue to have viewers contemplating the larger philosophical and spiritual ideas that the Cuaróns have presented.
According to THR, who interviewed Jonás Cuarón, the filmmaker was especially interested in exploring the pivotal moment in Stone’s survival story from a different perspective – to expose the subtle connections that exist between the two characters even if they aren’t on the same literal page: “It’s this moment where the audience and the character get this hope that Ryan is finally going to be OK. Then you realize that everything gets lost in translation.” Nevertheless, Jonás wanted “to make Aningaaq a piece that could stand on its own” – an effort that, according to Gravity star Sandra Bullock, Jonás nailed. Since its debut, the actress has called Aningaaq an “absolutely beautiful piece of loneliness,” further stating, “I get goose bumps thinking about it.”
Aningaaq was originally developed as a piece of supplemental material for Gravity‘s inevitable Blu-ray release but has since been screened at the Telluride and Venice film festivals. The success of the screenings, and growing online buzz, led Warner Bros. to position the short as a possible Oscar “Live-Action Short” nominee with a potentially history-making twist. Should both Gravity and Aningaaq secure wins at the 2014 Academy Awards, the father and son Cuaróns would be the first filmmakers to deliver two separate Oscar winning projects in a single year – drawn from the same storyline (much less two sides of the same conversation).
Gravity is now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Gravity as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.