The Gift is not a recent short, it was commissioned by TV makers Philips two years ago as part of their Parallel Lines project to director Carl Erik Rinsch, and got its share of buzz back then, and for understandable reasons.
This short movie, despite its commercial purpose, reunites almost all I love in shorts:
- It’s short: The Gift is under 5 minute long, and when you will watch it, you will be remembered how much you can tell in such a short amount of time. In comparison to the 50 shorts semi-finalists at Your Film Festival, 48 of them being over 5 minutes, it is refreshing.
- It uses the craft of cinema perfectly: beautiful cinematography, beautiful set-design, incredible work on sound, and of course, VFX.
- It is all about show don’t tell: the first dialog starts almost at 2 minute in the story and yet, you don’t feel like it was silent; because of the above point, and because you learn something in every frame.
- It is ambitious: The Gift is not only about visual beauty, it has an ambitious story to tell. It is ambitious because it is set in a futuristic world that mixes (brilliantly) old and new codes (think Tolstoi meets District 9) that need to be set-up quickly, and because nothing is explained, yet, everything is understandable. (see movie)
- It opens up your appetite: The Gift leaves you with a taste of possible in the mouth, and that’s a taste you always want to find again.
So, why the almost perfect ?
Meet me after watching the short for more on that, as I don’t want to spoil your viewing experience (how nice of me):
Hiatus: the only thing that felt pushy to me, was the robot running away. There are no evidence explaining why, instead of simply hiding the box (if that’s even needed) and ‘letting the police do their job’ he decides to escape. After all, the man was run over by a bus, he wasn’t murdered.
Of course, there might be a million reasons in the backstory explaining why he would do that, but it doesn’t feel like this is something that was thought through. And if it was, it got cut out or wasn’t conveyed at all on screen.
I don’t know what is the box about, I don’t get it, but I don’t need to know it to enjoy the story. The atmosphere is built for me to understand it is important. Important enough to kill a man. But the robot escaping an accident scene doesn’t fit the equation.
By the end of the short I had high hopes this was an excellent short teaser made for a potential feature film (à la District 9 once again), but then I discovered all about Philips and co., and realized this unsolved dots will remain question marks in my head.
So, all in all, The Gift is a great storytelling lesson but could have used a little tweak to reach total perfection. If that’s a goal, that is.
To Be Continued…