Tick Tock – a unique take on a simple concept

What will you do when you know you only have a few minutes left to live? This question is explored in Tick Tock, a short film made by Ien Chi.

First, I will start off with an overview of how the story is presented. Right from the start of the video, it should occur to everyone that something is off about it. The most obvious first cue would be that the clock is ticking backwards. In the next few seconds, you will notice all the sound has a strange echoing, dreamlike quality, as if everything is happening with altered perception. Subtitles are used for all dialogues, even though it would seem that they are speaking English in the first place. Some people may realize it immediately, while others may need time before the situation becomes clear – the entire video is being played backwards. We are taken through the story in reverse time, starting from the final scene and going back through the main character’s desperate attempts to do everything he needs to before he collapses. The viewers are left to piece together the story by themselves, as going through events backwards will definitely lead to some confusion. This technique is really effective in keeping viewers’ attention on the video, as watching the story unravel backwards is really intriguing. In the end, the message of the video is presented through a quote, and did leave an impact on me.

The video is shot from eye level, most probably with the cameraman always running alongside the actor with a handheld camera. This gives the feeling that the viewer is right in the scene with the main character, giving a feeling of closeness with the story. The way the camera is handled makes the illusion that the viewer is next to the character stronger, moving and behaving like a real person would, except that it does not directly interact with the scene.

Another point that gives this video a strong sense of reality and strengthens the closeness of the viewer with the scene is that the entire video appears to be shot with a single take. There are no cuts in the video, but the emphasized sound effects, constant movement of the camera, soundtrack and probably the reversed audio give a sense of urgency that continually draws viewers in. This also gives an idea of how much preparation was needed before shooting the video. Because of the scale and number of actors required, very precise coordination between all actors was likely needed to successfully present the story in one shoot.

Although the concept behind the video is simple – what someone would do if they knew they only had a few minutes left to live, it is presented in a very creative yet simple way, resulting in a video that is interesting and gives a strong impact at the same time.


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