I have recently been watching the repeats of Heartbeat on ITV3 and love them. They are packed full of adventure, drama, romance and humour. There are lots of tense moments but any dramatic scene isn’t so dramatic that it borders on disturbing. I struggle with watching violent programmes one of the reasons I switched over from Introduction to Film Culture to this course. I enjoy drama though and Heartbeat captures everything I love in a TV programme. (stills below are taken from my TV)
One of the saddest events happened on last weeks episode when Rob Walker, village bobby in the small Yorkshire town of Aidensfield lost his new wife Helen to an explosion detonated by Simon, a heartbroken young boy who had lost his beloved dog due to a tragic accident involving the police who were chasing down some armed criminals.
As the finale the episode – Accidents Happen – featured several storylines, there was the death of poor Patch and the injury caused to another man caught up in the crash, PC Bellamy’s wife betrayed him and fled to Africa, there was a gun stand off in the quiet Yorkshire moors and the sad story of Patch’s owner who suffered with a condition on the Spectrum.There was also a humorous sub plot featuring Peggy, a woman obsessed with money and gain and would do anything for some quick quid.
PC Walkers wife, Helen, the local doctor was heartbroken about Simon losing his dog and bought him a new labrador puppy (who stole the show) With the homemade bomb unbeknownst to Rob and Helen (stashed inside some boxes in the house) Rob offered to take the puppy to Simon thus sealing Helen’s fate
In Simon’s bedroom Rob gives him the puppy and notices a huge bottle of Ammonium nitrate. Rob scans the list on his desk reading ‘detonater, timer, looks like some design for a homemade bomb.
“That’s exactly what is is,” Simon says calmly as the smiles die on his Mum’s and Rob’s face. “You chased the men, that made them swerve onto the pavement, their car killed Patch, so it was your fault.” As he speaks the camera zooms in onto his face slowly and dramatically.
The tension goes up as they realise the bomb is at the house where Helen is. Rob flees downstairs to ring Helen. We switch to another scene with Helen who answers the phone. Watching it for the first time my heart soared and I thought, ‘she’s going to be ok’ but it was a clever trick by the producer and Helen smiles and says “Gina,” (referring to the land lady’ and settles down for a long chat. This moment is so clever, you think she’s ok but it just makes things worse. Now Rob can’t get hold of her.
The music starts up timid moments and the ticking of a clock joins the background.
Slow creepy music continues as Rob sets off on his motorbike and a deep trumpet. The camera tracks Helen through the house passing her and soaring up to the wall where the clock is.
Then the music is silent as Helen leans over and switches the radio on to Sandie Shaw’s ‘Always something there to remind me’ A high angle shot is used to show vulnerability of Helen as she goes about her normal business preparing dinner. They are having PC Bellamy round for dinner.
A close up of Rob on his motorbike with the bike’s noisy engine punctures the tense silence of the scene.
At the house Bellamy has arrived but Rob leaps off his motorbike flies past him screaming ‘HELEN!” As his feet crash down on the gravel and he races to the house the bomb sets off. Watching this with my sister we both leapt out of our skins. I think the fact that there was no music, the viewer was holding their breath, the footsteps on gravel was like the final tick tick tick of the bomb. Then the explosion. The windows shatter outwards. A huge mushroom cloud of black smoke erupts out knocking Rob and Bellamy flat on their back.
Rob is shouting ‘Helen!” and the camera flicks to a scene looking out from inside the house, smoke and the wall framing Rob as he staggers to his feet.
Bellamy races over and knocks Rob to the ground to stop him entering the house. The camera filming is unsteady and fuels the energy and drama of the scene. Through the railings we see Rob’s hopeless face as he fights to escape Bellamy and get inside the burning building.
It was very powerful filming it so Rob was staring into the camera, it made it pack more of a punch, more emotive, more painful. The railings like a barrier between he and Helen showing he would never see her again. A barrier he couldn’t break. As Rob stares horrified and helpless, screwing his eyes up against the burning and the smoke, the music starts Simon and Garfunkel, ‘For Emily’ We can’t see the burning building at this point, this is conveyed by Rob’s reactions to the flame. The music is so powerful and potent with the gentle guitar. He tries to escape into the flames again but Bellamy pins him down. Rob’s terrified face is hazy through a blur of smoke.
The most saddest part for me and the one which conveys such emotion is when the camera close ups on Rob as he hangs his head in slow motion in time to the ‘softer than the rain’ it’s finale, it shows Helen is gone and we feel the pain that he will never see her again. It’s almost too much to bear.
The scene changes to the sad stares of Rob’s friends as they watch the firefighters put out the blaze. No-one speaks after this scene, we aren’t told Helen is dead, but we know, mainly due to the scene below which speaks of such utter hopelessness and desolation.
The camera pans from the fire scene to inside the room (almost like a double exposure) where the police stand over Simon who is cradling the puppy while his Mum watches on, her emotions are unclear.
The camera continues panning and we arrive in the room where Bellamy is staring to the left out of the frame. The panning continues and Rob is framed from behind in the bullet point composition . There is empty space on either side of him which I feel is poignant as it shows his isolation, he’s lost everything. He hugs himself staring out of the window blankly. This body language shows a desire to be self comforted. Body language project says ” Self hugging replaces the need for the comfort of another. Thus, it is to be used when one does not wish to rely on the care of others, but when one still wishes to receive a caring touch”
I like to research how body language affects the mood of a scene and feel it is especially powerful used here.
Gina tries to comfort him slowly but he pulls away and breaks down in tears, gasping and choking as Bellamy and Gina try to comfort him. The scene turns to black which one last sob. Titles roll with the guitar of ‘For Emily’ instead of the usual upbeat Heartbeat music.
Reviewing this it’s a deeply moving scene, whenever I finish watching it I just stare blankly at the TV and feels a shock to be pulled back to real life when the TV turns off. To convey such emotion and feelings it’s a very powerful piece of TV and once which moves me to tears every time.
So why is it so powerful? Is it because the script has been written to show how Rob and Helen keep getting together and then breaking up then eventually they are married and about to move in when suddenly this happens and in a cruel twist of fate they are ripped apart for ever this time. “If the reader can identify with a character—with her dreams or habits or choices—he can also identify with her emotions—pains and joys and sorrows“
The way the scene was built up was very fraught, from Rob saying he’d take the puppy and leaving Helen at the house instead. The scene when you thought Helen was answering the phone to Rob but instead it was `Gina. The high angles, the emotive music and the pure desolation on Rob’s face followed by his choking sobs and the reactions of everyone to the burning building.
There’s also a sense of impending doom that they won’t be able to stride in and save the day, everything keeps going wrong and wrong until everyone’s worst fears are realised as Helen dies in the blaze.