Fede Álvarez puts our senses on alert with ‘Calls’

Apple TV+

By Gabriela Acosta, MWN

Fede Álvarez is a filmmaker who likes to experiment and push emotions beyond limits. The Uruguayan director gained worldwide recognition with ‘Evil Dead’ (2013) and ‘Don’t Breathe’ (2016) and is ready to surprise audiences with the series ‘Calls,’ which he created, written and directed.

“I love things to be as sensory as possible, that a lot of emotions are sound, not so many images, to put the senses on alert,” Álvarez explained to Metro.

‘Calls’ is an immersive television experience that uses only audio and minimal abstract visual elements to tell chilling and disturbing stories.

Told through a series of interconnected phone conversations, the series tells the mysterious story of a group of strangers whose lives fall apart in the run-up to an apocalyptic event. Mysterious interconnected phone calls shake a group of strangers in this eerie series that uses crisp writing, voice talent and graphics to transcribe the dark and dramatic conversations on screen. 

“In this case, there are no images, only graphics, things that take you and attract you. It’s something I love. The possibility of playing with sound, the senses, and allowing people to discover is amazing.”

Fede Álvarez made this series with no basic tools. For example, without a camera.Apple TV+

Before the premiere, filmmaker revealed what it was like to virtually direct the voices of actors and actresses such as Lily Collins, Pedro Pascal, Paola Núñez, Nick Jonas, Rosario Dawson, Aubrey Plaza, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Riley Keough, Ben Schwartz and Jennifer Tilly, among others.

“Everyone worked from home. I didn’t have to push myself too hard for them to sound like they were talking to someone. They were recording in their homes and talking to the other characters who were in their homes.”

He added: “What happens a lot with the voice is that there are many prejudices, you hear a voice and without seeing the face you imagine this guy is handsome, a jerk or pretentious… What I was looking for was to work with actors who generate those prejudices with their voices. There are certain episodes where they made me very happy because they sounded – exactly – like the characters, as was the case of Pedro Pascal.”

Álvarez took on the challenge of making this series without basic tools.

“We had the constraint of what happens if you take the camera out, can I still tell stories? It was a bit of a challenge, especially because my films depend a lot on the camera and the visual look. But it was an interesting challenge to know what would happen if I didn’t have the camera.”

He noted that the series is based on a French production of the same name, but he managed to add more sensory experiences.

“Something like this had not been done before. Obviously, it is based on a format, but I made these stories from scratch. ‘Calls’ leaves a lot to the imagination, it certainly opens a world for a lot of audiences that, in this case, are going to be able to experience it almost without eyes. It is certainly magical.”

We also asked Álvarez to learn how he would define the series:

“It’s not like a radio soap opera where you hear the doors slamming, thunder or footsteps outside. There’s very little of that. In the end, it’s super minimalist when it comes to sound. You get to see a sound show in the images… it sounds weird. The abstract graphics that we made do trips to another world, and we added sound to them,” he concluded.

The first season of ‘Calls’ will hits Apple TV+ on Friday, March 19.

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