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Experience the Birth and Death of a Relationship in 'The Divison of Gravity'

05.17.12 @ 7:25PM Tags : , ,

Speaking of watching films instead of camera tests, we’ve got another short curated by the wonderful people at Short of the Week. If you haven’t been following the site, one of the creators of Short of the Week, Andrew S Allen, was involved in the design of a beautiful iPad app called Paper that we reviewed here at NoFilmSchool. The Division of Gravity, embedded below, is a short film directed by Rob Chiu. With gorgeous cinematography and moving performances, we’re taken on the journey with the characters from the beginning of a relationship all the way to the bitter end.

The Division of Gravity, directed by Rob Chiu:

While it is more music video/montage than short film, in the end, the work as a whole deserves more than a simple classification. You can certainly see inspiration from the work of Terrence Malick, but there is a bitter reality to the relationship of the characters that lets this piece stand on its own and avoid such comparisons. The voiceover is the poem “After A While” by Veronica A. Shoffstall, and it lends itself very well to the imagery.

What camera was this shot on? DSLR, Alexa, RED? Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter, because when such care is taken exposing and composing shots, you can make any new camera look amazing. In fact, a wonderful post on the framing and composition of the short was done by a website called Cinema Shock. Camera tests might be fun, and they can surely save you some money from buying something you don’t really need, but by using the right tool for the job (even if that means saving up some money and renting), we can achieve fantastic results. Speaking of camera tests, the next round of the 5D Mark III/D800 review should be up tomorrow. I’ve taken all of the suggestions and comments and incorporated them into a revised version of the candlelight video.

What do you guys think about the short? What about the use of voiceover narration, did it add or detract from the experience for you?

Links: Rob Chiu – Vimeo & Stink – Rob Chiu & Cinema Shock

[via Short of the Week]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 54 COMMENTS

  • Joe, don’t get me wrong buddy, I like you but, I have to take issue with this piece being singled out as something special. It looks, to me, like something an advanced film student might have shot… nothing especially wrong with it but, really, nothing special about it either. Sorry but, thumbs horizontal.

    • Fair enough, not everyone has to like everything that’s posted on here, but from a technical and storytelling standpoint, this is well beyond student filmmaking.

      There’s a lot more going on in the frames than it seems at first glance. Personal experiences can also weigh heavily in our artistic tastes, so what hits home for you may not always be what hits home for me.

      • I dont know what film students your around haha. This was awesome. Saw it in that vimeo contest, very well done, cinematography….jizzzz! Thanks joe, must be a relief not to comment about camera technology.

        • Yeah, I mean I love the technology aspect (probably more than a lot of people here or I wouldn’t be able to do this job), but it’s certainly nice to post good stories and not worry about the camera they were using.

    • Advanced student film? This is way beyond a student film IMHO. Thanks for sharing Joe!

    • Lance Bachelder on 05.18.12 @ 3:24AM

      I was an advanced film student way way back – I’ve NEVER seen anything like this from any student, anywhere, ever.

      • Those were my thoughts as well, but to each his own, I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong with very high standards.

        • Visually, this is absolutely beautiful, so well shot. Some shots would’ve been nicer with shallower DOP and a few focus pulls.
          The story was amazing, and the acting was top notch as well. I’m highly impressed.
          I’m a film student right now, and if I can make my thesis film 60% of that I’m sure I’ll graduate with honors.

  • Interesting story I like. good job joe you introduced an interesting film and website to me today thanks!!

  • Hey Joe. I thought this piece was absolutely breathtaking, especially the cinematography, and I think that you’re right on in saying that it makes no difference whatsoever what it was shot on. It’s great to see some video content on this blog where the equipment used isn’t even a point of discussion. While equipment and technicality play a major role in what we do, I think that we all sometimes forget that creating compelling images and telling great stories are by far the most important aspects of filmmaking. I, for one, would be thrilled to see more of this type of content on the blog where the merits of the cinematographic techniques are discussed rather than the resolution or bit depth of the of the camera.

  • I keep expecting a logo to come up.

    No matter the past, stay in touch with Verizon

    No matter what’s happening in your life get there to live it with Mazda

    Experience the full spectrum of love and life with HP Printers

    When things go to shit grab a Heineken.

    • Rob Chiu is a commercial director, so maybe that’s why you get that sense while watching it.

  • Very pretty. Is it bad that I was guffawing throughout? Even without the synopsis given, is there anyone who didn’t see where it was going from the first thirty seconds? I’ve seen this “story” too many times. This seriously needed a wrench thrown into its narrative, to knock it off the beaten path. I’m trying to think of a better title, something like “Love is a first world dramatic problem: a comedy in under ten minutes”. Also I think it could have used a little more characterization of the female. Rather than just existential despair (or whatever she’s signalling by looking off into nothingness), she could have also been a painter, or really any sense of self with a life, rather than just getting mad at the dude for wanting a career or whatever it is he’s on the phone for. What exactly was she doing that she gets pissed at him for her non-entity status? But it is his fault, I guess. . . because what about her? Anyways, if she were a painter, then she could have dirtied herself (cliche wise) with paint, maybe add the good ol Wilhelm scream to really show she’s hurtin inside. Very pretty though. Yeah, I’m going to hell. No need to respond.

    • Do you write a blog or write for a living? I only ask because I never cease to be amused by your comments, even if I disagree with them.

      • Nope. Just a droll Blue collar stiff here. Sometimes I let my imagination peep out just a little. I would classify myself as one of those procrastinating writers who someday might surprise, but more likely just be a resounding dud. But, oh, the resonance shall resonate like no other! Isn’t that something? Or not. That said, here and there I see things that are decent in one way but so lacklustre in (obvious to me) other ways, result being that sometimes I can’t contain my indignation and have to puke it out onto the internet. A little snark comes out sometimes I guess.

    • I want to disagree with you, but I can’t even tell if your being serious or not. Instead, I’ll bring this back to a point about feedback. You’re not always going to tell a story that will tickle everyone’s fancy, so you’ve just got to tell one that means something to you and hope that enough of the general collective find an emotional connection within it.

      I’ve written some scripts and given them to associates for feedback, and I often get a lot of responses like “oh, what if you did ABC instead!?”, or “I like this, but I think it should end XYZ instead”. Those things don’t neccesarily add to my story, they just make it your story – and your story won’t necessarily resonate with more people than my own.

      The line in this film that really touched me was the scene when they were fighting in the kitchen and the woman says “Everything I do, I do for you!”, and then the man tries to echo the same sentiments but he realises how hollow the words actually are. Maybe this just resonates with me because I’m a narcisistic prick who’s too emotionally unavailable for his girlfriend, but either way, the essence of that scene really hit home with me.

      • @ben 6:35 the dude says everything he does is for her. He brings it up first, then she echoes. Just want to make sure we are watching the same thing. We could go off on a tangent about Kiarostami’s argument that everyone brings their own experiences and prejudices to watching a film but I’ld rather not. I am in agreement with anyone who submits that the male characters profesional ambitions are in conflict with what the female claims is their non-existant relationship. It can be hard to balance the attention needed for keeping a successful career and a beautiful mate. But what does this video show us that she brings to this relationship? Other than feeling beautiful and then later longing for a recurrence of same validation by him when the magic (which felt hollow to me) petered out. Oh No! He spends more time on his phone lately than validating me! I think I’ll cry about it. And it will be dramatic, I guess. Even though I don’t have any reason to care why these characters should stay together. And if I don’t have reason to care for them being together, it almost follows that I should cheer them torn asunder. But it’s more like meh. It never graduates to caring.

        I agree not all films will be appreciated by every audience. I’m a little funny in my tastes. Anyone else here a fan of Guy Maddin? At least no one can honestly call anything he does boring. But they sure might not like it.

        I’ve never given anyone feedback on a screenplay. I love stories. Not sure what it is that actually entails a good one. But sometimes to me I just see where things could be more interesting ie: complex and satisfying. If you think your stories are great or finished or whatever, why are you looking for feedback? For validation? Or perhaps you think they need something to really make them come alive? Because it’s lacking . . .something that is just out of grasp. Then I don’t understand the nagging about how person X changes your story into theirs. If it ain’t great, then it needs help, and whoever you are using to help you is helping you by giving you other options to think of (unless they are bringing you down, which begs a question concerning why you are asking somebody who isn’t helpful. Of course, you can’t really know what a person brings to the table until they share, book cover judging sort of thing.) Perhaps I don’t understand your concern. But, anyways, I’ve never given anyone feedback, but if I did, it would be magnanimous. If I did.

        Can you tell if I’m serious yet? Have I drawn lines in the sand discernable enough for argument?

        • Granted there are more than one way of interpreting the story. However, I think that the story is more about her thinking about the breakup and the aftermath then her thinking about her entire relationship. If you have ever broke up with someone, you never stop to think about the times when you were contributing to the relationship. Your down. And often depressed, forced to think about only what went wrong (often from the other person) and the time you were held in isolation. Personally, I would like to believe that this is where the direction and/or writer was going with this. I am not trying to argue at all and I think that you point is completely valid, but you got me thinking and this is my answer. Yes we’ve seen this love story 1,000 times. Yes we’ve seen 1,000 boxing movies. But some how it never gets old, and for most of the time I am satisfied with it as long as the story is told in a different way, wether it be visually, emotionally, or in the writing.

          • Also even if you were looking for the aspect, well what the hell did she do besides sit there and be beautiful? Thats a great point! Furthermore, looking at this topic abstractly, maybe she literally did not contribute anything at all. Maybe that was the downside that we the viewer were supposed so see from her telling us the story. The only reason why this finally clicked was when I saw one of the stills posted on the blog of her laying on the ground listening to her ipod. What is she doing? Well for starters, not only is she alone, but also listening to music on an ipod. She could have had the ipod plugged into an ihome, but no the simple act of her listening to music by headphones established that she is in her own world and she is not paying attention to what is happening around her. Shes not perfect and neither is the guy, which leads back to one of the main themes of the film established in the beginning that relationships are full of mistakes and is a constant learning process. Thanks again for the stimulating comments, greatly appreciated!

          • @ Robert
            Yes, seen it a thousand times. I need a different spin on it to warrant my praise. Elsewise it’s just another face in the crowd bleeting, and I’ve been there and done that. Not that I am a champion above all of originality. I love me some genre. But it needs something a little different from which has come before. A little twist.

            Again, I thought the movie was pretty. It was very competently executed in a mechanical way. I did like the cut to the boxes, thought it was clever. The characterizations left me wanting. It wasn’t bad acting. The story just didn’t engage me. I should date a pretty woman and then dump her to really get it. brb.

    • With you 100% on this.

  • I could do without the chick’s prattle, but damn good execution.

  • It’s great to see a post here that doesn’t incite a war over resolution, codecs, bit depth or whatever and hope that Joe and the NFS crew bring more of this kind of thing to us but, I AM ABSOLUTEY BLOWN AWAY that you guys think the photography here is anything greater than what I would classify as… well, ‘better than average’. I mean, maybe I missed something… what are we comparing this to? If it’s film work on a international or even national level, this falls in the fair to moderate range. I’m not trying to be mean or disrepectful but, are you saying this is up there with Bladerunner, anything Roger Deakins has shot, Conrad Hall and well, many others? Wow! I’ve looked at this several times and come away everytime with, yea, looks good but, not particularly outstanding… something I would think that anyone with a decent eye should be able to do… if they are going to call themselves a cinematographer, any way. Breathtaking? Ummm, see movies much? Decent acting and story seems Ok but, cinematically speaking… no, sorry. I look forward to everything Koo & Co. brings to my attention and rarely ever bother reading other sites except for specific information but, this is just a few notches above Cinematography 101. Joe… peace and love, my brother and keep it coming!

    • Are you seriously comparing it to Blade Runner?

      The cinematography in this film is great, within the nature of this film. Every shot is like a stolen moment from these two. It’s voyeuristic yet artistic and well designed all at the same time. Is it award winning? Not in my mind. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not great work.

      Comparing it to Blade Runner, though, is asinine. Two completely different worlds, two completely different stories, to completely different vibes.

      • I’m comparing it purely on aesthetic merits. Nothing more or less. I’m comparing it, objectively, to every other film out there which, is the only comparison, qualitatively, that should be made. I am not comparing it in a way that is dependent on the type of film it is. The type of film it is should have no bearing on an assessment of it’s photographic attributes. I didn’t say it doesn’t look good, just that it’s not particularly special in it’s photographic execution. I am primarily a still photographer attempting to expand my work to motion pictures. I expect everything I do to be compared, positively or negatively, to every other photograph or motion picture work out there on a worldwide basis. What do you compare your work to?

        • I’m saying this in all honesty, I hope to never over analyze art the way in which you are right now.

          If remaining ignorant means I can find joy in films just as the one in question, than for the love of god I’ll remain a child.

    • you really didnt like this short eh? I dont know man some movies strike a chord in some people and others it doesnt. I went through a rough relationship and this short film showed the experience in a way hollywood often doesnt. I liked it, the cinematography was great for what it is. its not ground breaking but that doesnt mean it isnt visually pleasing.

    • The reason that I said the cinematography in this short is breathtaking is that it doesn’t feel particularly monied and contrived like much of the high end Hollywood cinematography that you reference. Comparing something like this to the multi-million dollar budget cinematography of Roger Deakins is not only a waste of time, but it completely misses the point of why we make films in the first place. And who’s to say that those more traditional methods of creating images are the correct ones? For me, the cinematography in this short feels organic, with a naturally derived beauty, much like Lubezki’s work for Malick in recent years (although admittedly not as good). Maybe it just hits me differently. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

      • It seemed contrived and pretentious to me, navel gazing with lofty aspirations towards the profound – at least the 2 minutes I was able to handle. The visual narrative wasn’t great and rather than introduce us to the characters in any meaningful (visual) way it opted for random images of 2 people in a relationship. There’s some good shots in there but they felt forced, they tried so hard with the composition that I was always concious of the camera.

        Aside from the guy smoking a joint we don’t see them doing anything interesting. Perhaps their relationship falls apart because they’re a pair of impossible dullards living in the hell of some bland lifestyle commercial? Who are these people, why should we care about them? Do I care enough after 2 minutes to sit through the entire thing… absolutely not!

        • The Eros is sick and should just die already. Would have been better as a zombie film, at least that could have explained how dull they are.

          • Now you mention it, I always thought zombies were overlooked outside genre fodder. What better self-absorbed, procrastinating protagonist could a film maker hope for in an existential tristesse on the pain of failing relationships?

  • shaun wilson on 05.18.12 @ 12:35AM

    Student film, narrative film, commercial film, its all the same to me. We make films to entertain people or to give them an experience (experimental) and this film, rock solid, held me until the end. Good on them, good luck to the production team and keep on going. Joe, thanks for showing us this film, your spot on when saying this has something special.

    • Glad I could share it. From reading some of the comments either it strikes a chord or it doesn’t, but there’s no question to me that it was extremely well done. We also have Craig Downing and Short of the Week for putting this on their website, otherwise I may not have seen it.

  • Lance Bachelder on 05.18.12 @ 3:22AM

    Really top notch in every way – acting, cinematography, editing, music all great.

  • Oh, come on guys. It’s the earnestness of film school wedded to the aesthetics and production capabilities of an ad agency. If you’re looking for the death of cinema, you’ve found it here.

  • I caught myself forwarding a dozen times so I guess it didn’t strike a chord for me. But it’s definately well done. The short you posted a while back with the zombie soldier going home – that one did strike a chord – big time. You were talking about ‘connecting’ with the audience back then which Division of Gravity just couldn’t do for me – that doesn’t mean it wasn’t done well.

  • The cinematography, editing, and acting are all quite nice. The combination of the music and beautiful images is a powerful one. I’ve definitely seen a lot of short films like this lately, which I refer to as the long form music video. Seems to be the trend with short films these days. It’s nice as a mood piece (and definitely wears its Malick influence on its sleeve). I’m still longing for shorts that tell more of a story though. Not that it needs to be a dialogue-heavy AtoBtoC thing though. Just something that doesn’t feel like a 10 minute music video…

  • The Cinematographer was abit shaky on the shots, that was kind of jarring, im all for hand-held but i dont like seeing the shakes coming through. Maybe he should have shot with a loose baseplate. The lighting was really nice and thought-out tho. Especially the kitchen scene. A solid short.

  • so… what camera did they use?

  • Beautiful and powerful. Though I have two negative comments that echo what others have said: it does feel like a high-end commercial. I’m not sure why, but I think the casting has something to do with it, and the elegant cinematography can somehow be TOO slick. And second, who is she? The piece is really all about him, even though she’s narrating it. We get the impression she’s just waiting around the apartment for him while he’s away on business trips, and maybe that’s so, but why?

    Seems like a very limited male perspective without an exploration of her psychology, her side of it all.

    But again, I want to reiterate that it’s beautiful and powerful and well-done.

  • It’s a good reel for a cinematographer but not for a director or writer, lack of storytelling, he is showing only emotions and not a story, and there are many of these kind of shorts in the web.

  • I thought this was an absolutely breathtaking bit of work. I was totally drawn in and, to me, it was aesthetically gorgeous.

  • An Asian Filmmaker Ho Fan once told me “all art is about capturing a feeling”. This video captures the human heartbreak on the very basic level. It reminded me of the Tired Pony ‘s Song “Northwestern Skies”. The remoteness of the locations of (guessing and going along with the feeling) Northern Ireland and Scotland among others-Warmth of Love against the bleak Autumn-Blissful

  • Daniel Mimura on 05.25.12 @ 9:06PM

    This was one of the vimeo contest nominees, right? I saw it somewhere else recently…

    I have mixed feelings about it…having been thru relationship drama…I totally understand related right away, I connected…but it still feels…empty. It’s like that Polish brother’s 5D movie, whatever it was called. Yeah, it’s “well shot”, and has gorgeous talent in it…but…I couldn’t get into it exactly. Shallow and hollow, for some reason… How many times does she play with her hair in slow motion? Is this a shampoo commercial? Despite seeing her more than the guy, we don’t see to get much out of her except that she’s unhappy, and wants more attention. I agree with abersouth’s comments about her. I think the dialogue hurts the film to because it’s not really about what they’re saying, so actually hearing them say it is sort of a blind lead. (This is one reason I’m such a fan of silent movies…the actual words don’t matter as much, so they don’t subtitle the more banal lines of dialog, but just the ones that propel the plot).

    Another film that is also doing the mood sort of love lost story, but is much better is “the first f3 short”, Convergence.

    It’s shorter (which works better when there isn’t an actual plot or story really), and it has this amazing emotional back and forth between a guy being funny, cut with him being alone and sad with this moody piano music. The back and forth, despite it not being a plot based story (I think it was made up as a camera test or something) gives you something to connect with…in fact, it’s almost like he feels like an idiot for trying to make her laugh, thinking back on it or something…

    Really amazing little film. …and the DP uses a tripod!

    (I’m sure dixter likes this one better…..better camera work…and shot with the F3!).

  • Daniel Mimura on 05.25.12 @ 9:15PM

    I’m so glad that the discussions about this film is a debate about something other than camera stats, as much as they mean to me…it’s nothing, ultimately, compared to content.

    Debating these things about content, while harder b/c it’s always up to so much more about personal opinion as opposed to the more quantifiable factors about physical things (cameras, lenses, on board recorders, blah blah blah)…will always make for better filmmaking than camera gear.