The Look of Apocalyptic Relationship Comedy with Cinematographer Ruoyu Zhang

Ruoyu shooting on location
Ruoyu shooting on location

Pressure can result in destruction or in the creation of greatness, depending on the elements. While the COVID 19 pandemic halted most of the film industry, some filmmakers turned their attention and creative inclinations into discovering new ways of working. Unusual plotlines went hand-in-hand with this. The Charlie Andelman film It’s Over is everything wonderful about what this time forced filmmakers to do. It’s dark, it’s unusual, and it’s very funny. By leaning into the boundaries Covid had forced, this film created something quite exceptional. Cinematographer Ruoyu Zhang has similarly taken the constrictions of the era and presented a visual look to this film that is gritty and stark, highlighting the witty and negative outlooks of the film’s amorous, or perhaps anti-amorous duo. The visual style of this production embraces the natural and organic, which is the counterbalance to the cataclysmic events that take place in the plot. The tone manifested by Ruoyu is the ideal counterpoint to a storyline which offers a hyperbolic presentation of how relationships were effected during globally dire events. The result is a film that feels entirely rooted in reality with a tongue-in-cheek fatalism for the lovers who are the fulcrum of It’s Over.

  From the first few seconds of It’s Over, it’s obvious that the story runs in the opposite direction of every apocalyptic film you’ve seen before. In the most satisfying way, the story leans into the pettiness human beings can sometimes possess. The world is ending as the temperature of the earth’s core has been rising rapidly over the past nine months. Alice has been fatally injured and will surely die within minutes, possible at the same time as the planet. Even so, she musters the strength to call her girlfriend (Bex) to break up with her. Bex is flummoxed and wants to aid Alice, who rebukes this and states that she wants to get off the phone and enjoy a last few breaths alone and in peace. The camera work of It’s Over is symbiotic to the feelings of the two main characters and the cataclysmic world events occurring. The lighting establishes the overwhelming heat occurring while the handheld camera movements relate the frantic mental states of Alice and Bex. Switching back and forth between the two women, the audience is pulled into the room with each and connects with their emotions. An unusual intersect is created for the viewer, one in which the overall mood of shared worldwide destruction is superseded by one woman’s disdain for her former beloved. This is a place rarely seen in comedic films and expertly crafted here by Ruoyu Zhang. She informs, “It is really hard to tell a story in such a short time but luckily the script was very well done. Charlie as the screenwriter and the director was very clear about the vision of what they wanted and that gave me a solid foundation to build the visual world. After we got on the same page about what the film should look like, we started to think about setups. In order to tell a story in such a short time, I had to make sure all the shots we got were effective and direct enough so that the audience could get into the world very quickly and understand the story.”

  While there is a notable shared space with Seth Rogen’s This is the End in terms of dark comedic tone, the look of It’s Over is far more understated. As a result, it is also much more relatable. This is by design rather than negligence and the resulting effect is that the story’s attention is compelled to fixate on the character’s actions rather than VFX. Having served as the cinematographer for a wide variety of films, Ms. Zhang perceives her work as being untethered to the status quo looks of specific types of films. She notes, “Instead of the genre, I care more about the content of the film. At this point, I want to make more films about what I really care about and what I feel like as a human being in this society. I want to use my work to discuss more self-identity and the community. I’ve been in the United State for only three years now; before that I lived in China. I think I’m still in the middle of the process of knowing myself and realizing who I am and finding a community I belong to. I don’t want to be defined as a comedy DP or a drama DP. I think filmmaking is an adventure and I want to keep exploring.”

Writer: Arlen Gann

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