The Form of In Treatment

What I found interesting is the way in which In Treatment seems uniquely suited to television. We touched a little upon the medium in which it is presented on Tuesday, when we talked about how it might be distinguished from radio shows of yesteryear. To me In the first week, looking at the way in which the show was written, staged, and shot, it could have been written as a play. It relies completely on the dialogue between the two characters in the room and to a lesser extent their facial expressions. We are forced to rely on what they say and how they say it to learn about their character. Each of the sessions in the first week seemed like they could very well have been staged as single act plays, or the whole first week could have been staged as a five act play. In the first week, things like body language and space are used in ways that are very reminiscent of theater. If each of the sessions was a one-off affair, with subtle developments to the character of Paul that culminate in his Friday session with Gina, a play would be a suitable form. 

However, now that the second week has rolled around, it is clear that the story could only ever have been told on subscription television. The return of the characters from the first week is what adds narrative complexity, and in contrast to week one, the narrative momentum is too much for things to end after the Friday session with Gina. The camera comes into play. The characters seem to be starting to break out of the set that is Paul’s office. 

One of the things that the show uses the medium of television on is the perspective that is established with the shots. With the first week, the camera was really only ever in one of three places: facing the therapist, facing the patient, and on the rare occasion a wide shot of the two. In week two, there is a clear intention to subvert the convention established in week one in light of what happens in the session with Gina. The camera is now sometimes looking over the shoulder. Sometimes it is in a close-up that is positioned from one side of the room and other times in a close-up from the opposite side. There are more panning shots, more zooming in. 

In the first week, the moment that jumped out to me in the first episode with Laura was when she was in the bathroom. It is the first time that the two characters are not in the room together, and the camera chooses to show both of them, so this put me in doubt as to whose point of view we were supposed to adopt. It is also a moment that takes place outside of the office, outside of the established set. In the second week there are more of these voyeuristic shots and more moments that take place outside of the office. As mentioned today in class, we see Jake and Amy outside. There are also shots through the window: Jake and Amy leaving for the hospital, Sophie getting into the car with Cy. There is a much more liberal use of the camera in the second week, and the effect that is created is something that would be difficult to replicate on stage or in a novelistic form.  

Long story short, could this story have been told through any other medium? 

2 thoughts on “The Form of In Treatment

  1. Well, I was going to write on a similar topic but you beat me to it. 😦
    To answer your question, I think regular episodes on a web series seems to be a better medium than Television. You have the multiple buildups, short episodes and the need to have a large number of episodes. Plays well into the web series format in my opinion.

  2. I want to dwell a bit on the comparison you make between television and theater. I’d agree that body language and dialogue are at least as effective in theater as they are in television, but I don’t think it’s possible to understate the importance of cuts in film and television. Not only does the camera’s proximity to characters create intimacy–In Treatment is mostly shot at medium-close–but the variety of perspectives we get of the same space and the camera’s cutting from speaker to speaker position the viewer solidly in the setting. In theater, on the other hand, the constant distance and delineated stage form a physical barrier between audience and actors.

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