The Call Centre – European Independent Film Festival 2020 – Film Review

As this year’s edition of the European Independent Film Festival (ÉCU) is being broadcast online, The Call Centre was certainly on my radar to watch. It is referenced within my article about films to watch during this year’s film festival and The Call Centre certainly did not disappoint.

The Call Centre excels in building up the tension during its 16 minutes length in a film that could have simply been a mini episode of The Office. The film focuses on Paige, played by director Louisa Connolly-Burnham, who is a tele-marketer at an insurance call centre. The office dynamics could resemble those that many people would be familiar with but Paige almost seems like the outsider. The Call Centre immediately lures you into its world of seeming mundanity with office politics unveiled without any dialogue uttered as the camera pans revealing office flirtations.

The non-diegetic music of the opening scenes is eventually replaced by naturalistic chatter in a very smooth transition by actor-director Louisa Connolly-Burnham. It is whilst Paige speaks to a caller that the editing within the film and its overall tone is transformed. During such moments there is more focus on Paige’s face and her hands whilst she discusses an insurance policy with the deep voiced ‘David’. The concept of female desire is subtly portrayed as we hear Paige’s voice becoming breathless and can almost feel the rapid beating of her heart. During such moments, the audience is in the role of voyeur as the close ups ratchet up that sensation of heightened emotion and arousal.

Louisa Connolly-Burnham as Paige in The Call Centre
Louisa Connolly-Burnham as Paige in The Call Centre

Connolly-Burnham is unafraid to examine this concept of female desire further as The Call Centre takes the audience on a journey of sexual awakening as Paige effectively crosses boundaries following her conversation with David. There are day to night shots with long camera angles across sterile white corridors within the bathroom in the office which are swiftly replaced by long angles at night of Paige walking along tunnels and travelling by bus.

The Call Centre effectively ramps up a sense of dread and suspense through its use of non-diegetic rock music. The close ups and the fragmentation of Paige’s body during the scenes outside of her office, after work, are very striking and create a nerve-wracking tension illustrating the danger in the situation that Paige finds herself. The editing within such scenes is very taut and unflinching as a remarkable directorial debut by Connolly-Burnham.

The tension permeates The Call Centre through to its final moments and seemingly innocent telephone calls received by Paige have the potential to be a threat. It is certainly to Connolly-Burnham’s credit that the audience may therefore resonate with Paige’s fear. The words uttered, ‘do you believe in karma?’ certainly elicit that sense of dread once more for the audience!

Overall, The Call Centre is a well-acted, compelling drama and it is a recent winner of the Audience Award for the Sunday Shorts Film Festival, as a testament of its successful appeal. The Call Centre was a good entry to watch within Day 1 of the European Independent Film Festival and Louisa Connolly-Burnham’s future projects will certainly now be on my radar.

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