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The Short List: “Negative Space”

"So much wasted space."

negative space short film explained

Some fathers and sons bond through sports, music, or cars. For Sam and his dad, they do it over luggage. In this week’s “Short List” entry called “Negative Space”, we see how the whole process of packing has become a ritual for a father and son, and has ended up being the only intimate moments they have together. Sam often prepares his father’s suitcase for him, making sure to apply the essentials of packing that he learned from his dad. First he lays out everything, then he puts back half of the items, and finally arranges them inside the luggage in a specific order to maximize the space.

Baltimore-based filmmakers Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter adapted the film from a poem by Ron Koertge. The narration draws you into the intimacy of the story, while the visuals bring to life not just the human characters, but even the inanimate objects as well. There’s a sequence in the film where clothes are animated to move like they are sea creatures, a scene that is testament in itself to the filmmakers’ expert stop-motion craftsmanship.

The ending of the film is precise yet impactful. It’s subject to different interpretations, depending on how the viewer perceived Sam’s relationship with his dad, or how you decipher their obsession with packing clothes. Some people might even see it as a cruel punchline. 

Watch Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter’s Oscar-nominated short film, “Negative Space” below:

“Negative Space” Ending Explained

“Look at all that wasted space”. This is the first thing that came to Sam’s mind upon seeing his father’s body “laid out in that big carton”. One possible interpretation to this ending, is that the “wasted space” could essentially mean all the time that they could have used to spend meaningful moments as father and son. With their best memories being all about packing clothes, it’s possible the Sam regrets not making most of the time that he had with his father.

Another possible (and bleak) interpretation could be that when Sam talks about “wasted space”, he isn’t referring to the empty spaces in the casket. Maybe, he is in fact together about his father.

Or maybe the ending is simply a punchline. A clincher ending to the film’s 5-minute build-up.

Regardless of how you understood the story, there’s one sure takeaway at the end of the film – you will be so much better at packing clothes.


ABOUT “THE SHORT LIST”

The Short List is our running list of noteworthy short features available online. Each week, we recommend a short film worth watching.

Click here to see the full list of short films—you can also submit your own.

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