You are to write a character analysis such as the one I wrote for the operator in Emergency Call (c. 2013). I used a short film so that it would be easy for you to watch the film before reading my analysis, you may use a feature length film for your analysis.
When you post your analysis in the forum, please use the character’s name, the film, and the year of the film in your subject line.
You can cut and paste the template below into your forum discussion to make it easier to format your posting.
Character Analysis from Film (date)
The character I am analyzing is insert name who is insert brief description.
Further Character Dissection
THIS IS THE PROFESSORS EXAMPLE….
The character I am analyzing is the operator who has just become engaged to Scott.
The operator is a woman in her 30s of average height, weight, and appearance. She is someone whom would not attract attention of others in a public place. Except for her face, of which there are many closeups, we see little of her. Also, we do not know any specifics about her background and heredity. From her co-worker’s comment that she–like the operator–needs to get a souther boy (0:13)–we can assume that the operator is not from the south. Because the operator is wearing a uniform, we can learn nothing from her clothing about her character.
According to Pay Scale, ” The dispatcher’s job is to keep the caller calm and collected, gain as much information as possible, and communicate it to appropriate first-responders. A good 911 dispatcher may sometimes be the difference between life and death.” For this, the operator is paid $16.25 per hour with a medium income of $15.98.
Due to the nature of the film, we have only a few insights into the psychology of the operator. She appears to have a traditional outlook on life which we can see at her excitement of getting married. Because the operator is able to move quickly from gossiping about her engagement with a co-worker to her professional duties as soon as her phone beeps (0:15), we can see that she is both poised and professional. She is someone who can maintain her composure under pressure.
John Reich argues that “these [psychological] traits are brought out by the conflict that arises and the situations that occur during the rising action of the movie.” We are able to see the operator’s composure as as she answers the 911 call. Even though we see the strain on her face as the horrific nature of the crime is described by Emily who made the 911, the operator remains cal and collected as she gains information from Emily, communicates the information to first responders, and tries to keep Emily calm. Through her imagination, the operator is able to see the carnage of the death scene yet she only slightly breaks her composure when Emily tells her that she was to meet her friends for French fries (1:42). Through a close up, we are able to see the operator’s surprise when she asks “What?” (1:45), her tone of voice does not betray her surprise.
Even at the end of the film when it is revealed that the murder is her fiance (2:12), the operator maintains her composure. Only her breathing becomes slightly labored.
Reich argues that “Depending upon the story of the movie, the sociology may not play as big a part in the character portrayal as the psychology of the character.” This is the case in this film. The fact that we can speculate on the operator’s social class because we know her occupation, her occupation provides more psychological understanding that it does sociological character development.
Reich’s speculation that “If a character is taken out, away from the way of living that he or she has adapted to and is familiar with, sociology may play a bigger part in the movie” applies to Emergency Call. During the first 16 seconds of the film, the operator demonstrates that she is capable of emotional responses. The fact that she seems emotionally stunted when she learns that her fiance is a murder is likely a result of the fact that she is in work mode where composure is a paramount virtue. Had her coworker learned that the fiance was a murder and reported this fact to the operator outside of work, I suspect that the operator would have had an emotional breakdown.
Although the operator is working in an impersonal office which requires her to wear a uniform, mise-en-scene does provide us with one important glimpse into her character. In the opening shot of the film, a photograph of the operator and her fiance are clearly in focus. This photograph does out of focus as the operator’s engagement ring comes into focus.
The other important way that mise-en-scene works well is that throughout the film we are able to see the operator continue to function in her environment while focusing on her facial expressions. Because there is so little action in the film, character is primarily communicated through the operator’s face. For example, we see an effective use of mise-en-scene when the point of view of the camera is from the operator’s computer screen. We first see this type of shot beginning at :042.
Although I have watched Emergency Call many times, i have only watched it twice with the sound turned on: the first time I saw it when Olivia Adami screened it in a class I was teaching and once again after I had finished most of my analysis. Fortunately, Emergency Call has the type of quality captions described by Gary Robson in Does Closed Captioning Still Serve Deaf People? (7:25-8:05). For example, the caption “door creaks open” allowed greater understanding of what has happening in the film than I am allowed when such information is not included in the captions. The second time I watched Emergency Call with sound, I did discover that what appeared to be high quality captions were not synchronized as well as they could have been; an issue Robson raises at 7:35. However, the synchronization is not so far off as to be distracting to the viewer–unless captions and sound are both on.
Further Character Dissection
When I first read John Reich’s comment that “This brief discussion of the character outlines the complexity in building and developing a character in a movie that is going to last on an average of 120 minutes,” I was amused because of my passion for short films. I want to respond “Imagine the complexity of building a three dimensional character if you only have one minute? or fewer than ten minutes?” Yet is can be done.
In Emergency Call, the characters and their actions “weave an interesting tapestry to make movie viewers interested in them ” for three minutes and nine seconds. Yet, if the film were to be expanded to 90 minutes, the operator would maintain our interests. Short films do not necessarily have an advantage over long films to keep the audience’s interest. I have tried to watch one minute films that had such poorly developed characters that I lost interest before the film was completed.
The characters in Emergency Call do work well together. All four of the characters with speaking parts have multi-dimensional characters. The co-worker, the the operator, is able to switch between personal chit-chat and professional composure. Emily shows a depth of emotion even though we never see her outside the closet in which she is hiding. And Scott, the fiance, is both a loving Southern gentleman and a murderer.