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I recently watched the comedic short film “The Elevator” by Greg Glienna. The film describes the everyday struggles and worries of riding in an elevator. While these struggles are dramatized, it serves as a good representation of what we’re all feeling at times. It touches on issues such as overcrowding, worries about the maximum weight capacity, and being in a compact space with sick people. While the film is short and simple, it uses both diegetic and nondiegetic sounds to capture the mood. The short film starts with a lack of sound as the man approaches the elevator. The diegetic sounds finally start when the elevator dings and the man shuffles in. Tinny elevator music then starts playing, to add further to the fact that yes, he is in an elevator. The choice in elevator music is very stereotypical; smooth jazz music that one would expect to be playing. The music precedes to get louder whenever the elevator stops to let more people in. The increasing volume adds to the mood of the scene, portraying the main character’s annoyance. The diegetic sound of the elevator dinging whenever it opens adds a sense of doom, especially the longer the viewer watches every time it dings, more people seem to shuffle into the already crowded elevator. Finally, the elevator dings again and the music stops, possibly to represent the people in the elevator’s relief that someone is about to get off. I feel that the elevator music in general represents the agitated mood in the elevator, and a break in it only represents good things to come. However, another man gets on board and the music continues. While someone is calculating the overall weight capacity of the elevator, the elevator starts to make strained groaning sounds. This creates a mood of apprehension and foreboding; is the elevator going to crash, killing everyone? It takes the audience down a suspenseful path, as they were probably presuming that the short film was a comedy. As the elevator falls, the elevator music stops as well, indicating the shift in the mood. However, it eventually resumes and the annoyed mood is present again. The only diegetic talking that occurs in the short film is when a man excuses himself off the elevator when an overweight man is approaching. This contrasts against the rest of the film and its lack of dialogue, adding a sense of urgency to the man wanting to get off. In my opinion, the scene would not have been as funny if he had not spoken at all and you were unable to pick up the intonation in his voice. There is silence in the film again when the main man manages to get out of the elevator. The lack of tinny elevator music or dialogue indicates the sense of relief that the main character is feeling; he is finally free from the sounds and the overcrowding. However, a different set of obnoxious elevator music starts playing again when the second elevator arrives, also full of people. This adds again to the sense of unfavorable conditions, of how unfortunate it is that this would happen again. It also adds to the humor of the scene as it creates a circumstance that the audience can relate to. The sounds of people coughing and sniffling are present during the next elevator scene, indicating that the main character is in an elevator full of sick people. The addition of these diegetic sounds adds to the humorous dread, as they are present in excess. While it is common to hear a cough or two, rarely is it an elevator full of coughing people. One of the coughing sounds is made louder than the others as the scene focuses on a glob of spit landing on the main man’s neck. This adds emphasis to the sick man’s cough in particular, making it the focus and an addition to the horrified mood.
There only appears to be one non-diegetic noise in the short film. This occurs during a scene in the first elevator, when an overweight man is approaching the already full elevator. Low, brassy music that resembles the shark movie “Jaws” theme begins to play. This is a sound that the viewer is most likely already familiar with, adding to both the tone of the scene and the comedic value. The dreading tone is established by the fact that the viewer knows that the theme plays whenever a shark is approaching–the elevator’s demise. The comedic effect comes from the fact that the short film is comparing an obese man to a deadly shark.
While the film is short and simple, without much variety in sounds and music, the times in which it does use sound are very effective because of it. Overall, I enjoyed this short film. I thought it was funny and very relatable, and I laughed a couple times throughout it. I didn’t think I would like it, just because it was a short film, but I was pleasantly surprised.
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