Look, Listen, Analyze

The camera work from the get go brings up many negative connotations. In the opening sequence, a wheel chair is positioned to the left of the screen in the lower half of the frame. Ms. Keene then appears and adjusts to her right, towards the telephone and openly confronts the mysterious caller. The shock of the storm brings her sight back to her left side before she finally rests in the middle of her bed and falls back asleep. This, according to Ebert;s guide, could suggest several negative connotations. Firstly, the wheelchair, placed on the left side, recognized to Ebert as the usually “more negative side of things” suggests a handicap. The fact that it is located on this side of the frame helps to create the idea that possibly this disability lends more to the story and could mean much more than a physical handicap. The clock is placed on the right, which based on the appearance of the main character of the story, suggests that some time has passed, or at least that it is moving forward. The lighting of the show is quite tapered down, as might be expected of any depiction of a horror story. The sudden flashes of dark and light and the contrast of cemetery vs daylight however suggests that there is both a light and dark side to this story. While Ms. Keene is usually featured in the top half of the frame, the telephone she seems so wary of (at least with out sound) is usually seen in a position below her, or in one instance, hanging off it’s hook in the lower half of the shot. Negative things seem, in accordance with Ebert’s guide, seem to sway more towards the negative. To take an earlier example, the storm in the beginning of the show seemed to be centered to the left of the screen, as did the cemetery later in the segment.

The episode starts very high paced. There is a storm heard and then the shrill sound of an old telephone. A click can be heard, very clearly, perhaps meant to denote the end of a scene. Instead, the storm is heard again and the telephone once again rings. After this, Rod Serling begins his narration. The very quick paced beginning sort of makes sense with the plot. You know as much as Ms. Keene does at all points in time, so when you hear her make a big deal over the mysterious telephone calls, it almost makes sense. The moans of the man on the other line give the listener a sense of despair and hardship. The constant calling put together with the panic of Ms. Keene suggests that something familiar about these calls are bothering her. The music, however, just five minutes into the show, is a startling, almost slow paced tune. The orchestra is featured prominently and sharply. This somehow lends the theme of a mystery-the music ends abruptly as a conversation ends, so it leads one to wonder if there is something there that we don’t quite see (or hear yet). As the episode goes on, the voice of Ms. Keene becomes more and more desperate- almost whiny at some points. This can be heard especially in the final moments of the program when she finally understands who is contacting her. Her lovers voice can atone to this as well- he becomes more and more agitated as he tries to contact her. She desperately screams to the voice on the other end, begging forgiveness. This in turn lends to the theme of the show-you must accept the choices you make, and the consequences that become of them.

 

Together, the visuals and audio lend to each other splendidly, and form a tight relationship. When viewed simultaneously, these two forms of media work together to exchange the story. The dramatic switch of views and angles lends well to the change in the tone of the dialogue and the over all increasing urgency throughout the course of the story. It starts out with the assumption of a paranoia, a fleeting feeling of fear, and then increasingly escalates to. Of course, as Ebert notes in his guide, the premise of left=negative, right=positive is not absolute, but merely one strategy of how to interpret film. In this case, I believe this theory to be completely pertinent. Things that seem to frighten or upset Ms. Keene seem to appear on the left of the screen, where as things such as the clock on the right hand side of the wall may suggest something such as time going forward, especially due to Ms. Keene’s advancing age. Although black and white television was common at the time, I feel like when it’s put together with such dramatic dialogue it really speaks to the message of the episode- life is either this or that- it’s what you make it, and you have very little time to make those choices.