The Story Behind the Black Screen

The documentary portrait entitled “Charlie” spoke to me in a different way then the other videos did. I found it the most relatable which may be because of the fact that Charlie is a Pitt student, I watched the burning apartment building on the news after it happened, and I am familiar with the area that this video is filmed in, but I also think the director should be accredited for providing a comfortable environment for viewers.

Charlie mentions that he is a very “go with the flow” kind of guy, and the way he is captured through the lens shows this. With the exception of a piece of news coverage, Charlie narrates the video, however you never actually see him talk. This lends to the story quality of this piece. Charlie speaks slowly and with little emotion, yet to me it makes him more likable. He’s talking about big things in his life (e.g. his job, his apartment being burnt down, etc.) but he still speaks as though he is satisfied with where he is at and he has no need to rush. The narration aides in the tone of the film because he is calm, yet passionate and sure of himself at the same time.

Another specific strategy I found important was the break between the two distinct parts of Charlie’s story. Exactly halfway through the film (4:56 to 5:03 to be exact) the screen goes black. Seven seconds is a significant amount of time in a ten-minute piece to have a completely black screen with no sounds or visuals. In fact, I checked to make sure my Internet didn’t go down during this break. When I realized it was intentional, I was able to understand the purpose of it. This dramatic pause separated the two huge parts of the story in a way that you can’t help but notice. I think it helped stress the important change in Charlie’s life.

While we follow Charlie at his job, see him at his old apartment building, and hear him throughout the documentary, we do not ever see Charlie interact with others. What effect do you think this has? Do you think adding this would make us feel a more personal connection to Charlie, or do you think it may take away from the intensity of the film?

– TS


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