‘Calls’: the most suggestive sci-fi series of the year inherits the best of apocalyptic cinema and mystery podcasts
The ‘Calls’ proposal is as unique as, in its own way, simple and direct. Is about a narrative experiment that is very traditional but, at the same time, is absolutely different to what we are used to seeing in television products, cut by more and more similar patterns. ‘Calls’ has more of a radio fiction than a regular television series.
Based on a concept designed by Timothée Hochet for Canal + France, ‘Calls’ relies completely on the power of the voice and a series of suggestive visual cues to develop a series of slightly interconnected stories. They take place when many people in different parts of the world have inexplicable experiences, related to the passing of time and space.
Trips to the future and the past, loops that cannot be escaped, different speeds in different spaces, alternate timelines, strange creatures with terrifyingly familiar appearance … events that apparently have nothing to do with each other and that we will learn through telephone conversations. Actors such as Rosario Dawson, Mark Duplass, Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, Aubrey Plaza or Jennifer Tilly, among many others, bring the protagonists of these conversations to life in the original version, in which puzzled characters wonder what the hell is going on.
We will not get, with the passing of these brief nine episodes, of between fifteen and twenty minutes each, too many answers (some do: the last two chapters try to give a global closure to everything) but that does not matter. What we do have are a series of vignettes of characters of very different types (criminals, scientists, young parents, policemen, airplane pilots) facing phenomena that they are unable to understand and that make them confess secrets, reveal sins of the past or make decisions that will change the future.
A unique proposition from Apple TV +
Fede Álvarez, director of the stupendous remake of ‘Infernal Possession’ and of the also superb claustrophobic thriller ‘Don’t breathe’, is responsible for adapting the French original, which is longer (it has now been three seasons and 27 episodes) and is also more experimental visually . In the ‘Calls’ gala, the graphics that accompany the voices do not always refer to the nature of the telephone of conversations, and they function as mere indications of who the different characters are.
Álvarez, however, with the help of his team of graphic artists, has opted for a more creative and colorful approach. Each episode has its own concept, more or less linked to the theme it develops, and always around the idea of audio waves. These waves will form symbols of infinity when the episode talks about loops in time, or they will simulate mountains, scenes or plans of a city or a house to help the setting. The result, of flawless monochrome elegance, drives the setting and suspense, with ideas literally never seen on screen.
It should be noted, yes, the adaptation to Spanish that Apple TV + has carried out. You can access a version dubbed into Spanish, but in which the texts on screen will continue in English: the translation is neat, but it doesn’t work as brilliantly as the original. Another option is the original voices with subtitles in Spanish, but the appearance on the screen of texts in two languages can be confusing. Our recommendation, if your knowledge of English allows it, is that you see the original version: voices in English and texts in English on the screen. The dialogues are not difficult to follow and it does not require a very high level of English.
In one way or another, ‘Calls’ is an unavoidable date for science fiction lovers. The development of the stories without us seeing the actors goes back to classic times of life-long radio fiction, but also to the wave of fiction podcasts that are exploring new ways of telling stories. ‘Calls’ is a hybrid format worth checking out, if only for its bravery and honesty. Although Apple TV + cannot compete in reach or impact with streaming platforms such as Netflix or Disney +, after triumphs such as’Mythic Quest‘ The ‘For all mankind‘has hit the nail on the head again.