Alfonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY Filled with Long Shots; Unbroken 17-Minute Opening Confirmed

     April 11, 2012


Alfonso Cuaron crafted some remarkable unbroken shots in Children of Men, and it was previously rumored that he would be upping his game for his new movie, GravityBack in 2010, we reported that the movie would open with a single, 20-minute shot.  Today, we’ve learned that while the opening scene will be an unbroken 17-minute shot (way to slack off, Cuaron).  Additionally, long takes will run throughout the film.

Hit the jump for more.  The sci-fi drama stars Sandra Bullock as an astronaut who fights to return home after her space station suffers a catastrophe.  Gravity opens in 3D on November 21st.

children_of_men_movie__image_alfonso_cuaron__1_gravityImmersed in Movies [via The Film Stage] reports that Chris DeFaria, and executive producer and VFX lead on many Warner Bros. films including Sucker Punch and I Am Legend, revealed to an audience at 5D | FLUX conference at USC that Gravity only has 156 shots in its two-hour runtime, and many of the shots run “six, eight, 10 minutes long.”

Of course, it’s possible some of these shots don’t involve much camera movement.  I would be shocked if every long take required the same amount of insane planning and precision as the climax of Children of Men.  There could be a scene like the 16-minute continuous take of the conversation between Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham‘s characters in Steve McQueen‘s Hunger.  Nevertheless, scenes like those present their own challenges since the cast and crew have to keep the tension, and audiences are accustomed to short takes and dynamic camera angles.

DeFaria also mentioned that the film’s design and long-takes came from trying to reverse engineer a live-action movie from an animated picture’s freedom of movement:

“Instead of trying to create real people and what they’re doing, let’s turn it around and create almost an entirely animated film and then backwards engineer the people into that film,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, let’s not even engineer the people into the film, let’s engineer their faces. So you’ve got these little faces inside these little helmets. But there was a big hiccup that we came to I didn’t realize until later, which was that we began building it as an animated film and Alfonso had an idea that he wanted the shots to be incredibly long, and I said, ‘How long?’ And he said he wanted the first shot to be really long. And I said, ‘You mean, 40 seconds?’ ‘No, 17 minutes.’”

I absolutely love it when a director has the vision to dream big, and more importantly, has the talent to realize that vision.  I admire Cuaron for embracing this challenge, and I have faith that he’s managed to master his challenge to create a captivating and compelling picture.


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  • SP1234

    That sounds incredible! So stoked for it. I think they can definately pull these shots off, knowing how awesome that train sequence in Sucker Punch came together (that must have helped Alfonso out in the development, even Sucker Punch failed to make an impact on the public, but I know this project will most likely be as big as Avatar).

  • SP1234

    For those that ask, I know from watching an interview that Zack Snyder constructed the vignettes in that train sequence from shooting the different angles and brining them together through CG. My guess is Alfonso will most likely do the same thing but with some advancements.

  • Alex–

    What’s this obsession with long shots? It doesn’t make any film better.

    The only advantage to long shots is they are usually more immersive and their difficulty means the director usually pays more attention to their shots. kubrick for example.

    Overall it’s good that he’s putting alot of effort into this film and Sandra will be make a great leading lady.

  • CL

    I like Cuaron’s style a lot but I hope these long shots aren’t distracting. seems excessive. he better be doing them to serve the movie and not for his own personal record books.

  • Tim

    Emanuel Lubezki is shooting this film so it should be EPIC. Tree of LIfe anyone????

  • Mitt Romney

    Why the long shots? Because it shows skill.

  • Rick Roll

    Roy Andersson does wicked long shots, and he doesnt even move the camera.

  • Jamie Helton

    The correct term is “extended take.” A long shot is one that’s framed so that the entire body of the subject from head to toe is seen with the camera a good distance from the subject.

    Extended takes are often a goal of ambitious directors, but were always limited to approximately 11 minutes due to the physical size of the reel of film used. Hitchcock got around this limitation in “Rope” by putting in hidden cuts. With digital cameras, the only time limitation is the size of the device capturing the recording. “Russian Ark” had its cameras feeding into a hard drive so that the entire movie was captured in one continuous take in real time.

    Cuaron is very ambitious and also very creative, so his extended takes tend to both serve a purpose but also are hidden by the audience by continuously re-framing and moving the camera to give the impression that there’s a new shot.

  • Gerberzy

    WHY DO LONG SHOTS?….. If you look at one of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, such as “Solaris” or “Stalker,” the viewer will quickly find out that there are some really long takes. American audiences are used to quick cuts, especially in action films. The average length of a cut in American cinema is probably twice as short as foreign films. As there are reasons to make short cuts, there are also reasons for long takes. In Tarkovsky’s “Solaris,” the camera lingers so long that it makes the viewer uncomfortable at times, which I believe is a good thing. The viewer will ask “why am I watching this guy walk around a pond for ten minutes straight? What’s the point?” There isn’t really one answer. His long takes are a way to let his camera capture the moment. The viewer will begin to forget that they are watching a movie and they begin to think that they are there, watching a person, watching his actions. The shots also let his images speak, the nature and the mise-en-scene in “Solaris” are breathtaking, and you appreciate it more when the camera lingers on it, it becomes a character almost.

    • Jerome

      Tarkovsky is literally “Sculpting in Time”.

  • Modigliani

    “What’s the obsession with the long shot?” That’s like asking why people like home runs, or slam dunks, or perfect games, or shootouts, or ice cream, or winning championships, or having sex, or pick-sixes, or chipotle.

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  • Tony Kieme

    Hooray for Hollywood; I’m actually anticipating a movie in a long while.

  • Jerome

    Tarkovsky is literally Sculpting in Time…

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  • Matt

    Cuaron’s ‘Children of Men’ was one of the best films of the decade. It featured two extended takes that were amazing and added to the storytelling (the ‘ping-pong ball’ car scene, and the shoot out run and gun scene at the end). Whatever Alfonso Cuaron has up his sleeve for extended takes in ‘Gravity’ will undoubtedly be stunning.

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  • paul

    Just give me a great picture, like citizen kane. Long shot, fine…just give me some greatness already!

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