Shiro Prays

Given the epic grandeur of this film, a "key scene" or "key sequence" is quite difficult to decide. In this case, the key scenes I chose are not so much key to the story (in all honesty, the entire film is key unto itself); however, the sequence I have outlined below is perhaps the most critical in terms of prompting the viewer to realize the film has, in perfect Clarke style, expanded the story beyond the events of its characters and now brings its revelation onto not just one man, or a few men...but all mankind. The sequence begins with Shiro's prayer in orbit, seen above. Here, the Reformed Man--no longer bound to his home--seeks guidance not only for himself, but for his fellow men. That his world is perhaps not yet prepared to venture forth into the sanctuary of the heavens--he asks that the path be left open, full in the knowledge that as with each new frontier, Man brings his darkness as well as his light. He prays not only for what Man has done, but what Man may yet do.

As if in answer to his prayer, the bright light of the sun momentarily blinds Shiro, and we see that light falling, as it has for billions of years, onto his world and calling life forth...

...the scenes shift in a whirl of thought, and we see through Shiro's eyes as he grows up in a turbulent world. Through his eyes we see what is perhaps the keenest symbol of all--the efforts of Nature in contest with the efforts of Man: A bolt of lightning outlines a high-tension tower...a dripping faucet mingles with the raindrops of the storm...

The scenes shift again, and we see that it is not merely Shiro's world that changes, but Man's world. Civilizations rise and fall...and rise again. They fall in war; they flourish in peace. The fruits of science are made to serve purposes both noble and heinous, and throughout all we see that man, though fallen many times, has risen higher and higher with each new turn of the wheel. Soon, his cities are too small to hold his accomplishments. His countries grow beyond their capacity to support his dreams. The planet itself becomes small in Man's vision; he has grown beyond the city, the continent, the planet...until at last he has but one place left to look. And, like a boy that realizes his childhood's end, Man looks outward... the stars.

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Christopher S. Rider --