Daily Archives: November 8, 2017

Emergency Calls (2013)

*. A cry of distress is something we seem to be hardwired to respond to. It’s probably the same wiring that makes the sound of a baby crying so annoying, which is to say hard to ignore. A plea for help is something that triggers our full attention.
*. If you’ve ever listened to real 911 calls on news programs you know how intensely dramatic they can be. So the concept of a short film dramatizing emergency calls and radio traffic — in this case relating to a birth, a sinking ship, a school shooting, a traffic accident, and a case of domestic violence — has some merit. I also like the idea of presenting the calls not realistically but in an experimental style. The imagery is almost abstract in its playing with shape and colour, and we only see a couple of faces. The overall visual texture is akin to the background images you used to see on screensavers. Back when people still had screensavers. I’m told young people today don’t even know what a screensaver is.
*. As an experiment, however, I don’t think it really works. Some of the visuals are great. I love the sinking ship looking a bit like a Modernist painting, followed by a lonely pink flare. And the spread of frost over the traffic accident is a persuasive image, projecting the treachery of icy roads and the coldness of death onto our machines.
*. There are false steps though. I don’t think it makes sense for us to see the responders, especially as their faces remain robotic, without emotion. And the callers voices are almost as flat, with little hint of panic or confusion. The audio might be a table reading. Black spaces hiccup onto the screen in an irritating but not very significant manner. And finally it isn’t clear how the various emergencies can or should be drawn together. What unites these desperate visions?
*. The writer-director team of Hannes Vartiainen and Pekka Veikkolainen don’t draw the episodes together in any way beyond the poetically visual, preferring to have the human predicament drift into an alien space. As the emergencies become aestheticized, however, they lose their immediacy. Perhaps the point is that we are all in the position of the responders: overwhelmed by the noise of demands on our sympathy we back off and “see” only patterns, a kaleidoscope of images that cohere just long enough to be re-routed, before slipping into an indifferent void.