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Jerry Earl Johnston: 'Gravity' spins a celestial allegory

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows a scene from "Gravity."

Associated Press

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Last week, my wife and I took the bait and went to see the new film “Gravity.”

We didn’t see it in 3-D. We like 2-D. (We’re so old-fashioned, if they brought it out in 1-D we’d be first in line.)

“Gravity,” of course, is the 2013 space odyssey from writer/director Alfonso Cuaron.

It’s already setting box office records. I expect it will propel Sandra Bullock into a nomination for another Academy Award.

There’s a lot to like about “Gravity.”

It’s fun, for instance, to watch George Clooney jet around space with an expression on his face that resembles Buzz Lightyear.

It’s fun watching director Cuaron twist and bend common sense in order to heighten the drama.

And it’s fun watching the characters grow and change.

There’s a lot to like about the story that's told in "Gravity."

But what I liked most about it was the fact it's allegorical.

Unlike the “Left Behind” films or “Battleship Earth,” you don’t have to buy into a specific set of religious beliefs in “Gravity” to find meaning.

Christian movie critic Paul Asay put it this way:

“Obviously, the movie’s musings on life and death can be taken myriad ways. But for Christians like me, there’s a special resonance to be found.”

That’s the wonder of allegories. They are stories that shape-shift to suit our personal situations.

In fact, I’m one of those people who believe many of the stories in the world’s sacred texts are more allegorical than literal.

And, to my way of thinking, that doesn’t weaken those stories at all but gives them even more power and range.

In the movie “Gravity,” I saw a full grab-bag of symbols and metaphors.

There’s a baptism by water and a baptism by fire, for instance.

There’s a rebirth. (For Darwinians, the same scene could be an image of the first creature climbing from the sea.)

Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, must learn to lose hardness and soften up.

She's the scripture from Ezekiel that serves as an epigram for James Ferrell’s book, “The Peacegiver”: “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

She's the girl in the Neil Diamond song: “And she would ache for love and get but stones.”

She's pretty much anyone you want or need her to be.

That’s the beauty of allegory.

It's adaptable.

And that is also the beauty of the movie “Gravity” (along with all the eye-candy moments).

"Gravity" may well take movies places they have never gone before.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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