So Penn, with less than a month to decide, was suddenly without a subject. He felt like someone who had arrived in the waning moments of a basement bargain sale.
"Well, what's left?"
"You're awfully late."
"Yes. I know."
"There's canoeing. You can have that."
"The 1,500 meters. The pole vault. Volleyball. Bicycle racing. The triple jump."
"I'll take the pole vault."
Penn's vision of the pole vault will cause more controversy than anything else in Visions of Eight. For an agonizing number of minutes the screen remains out of focus and without sound; it is almost a sure bet that unknowing audiences will start whistling and stomping and screaming at the projectionist for not being on the job up in his booth. Through the fuzz of blurred color one can discern the run and then the rise of the vaulter, the bend of the pole, and it would seem that a twist of the focus knob would set everything right.
The blatantly subjective reason for this intentional obscurity is startling: Arthur Penn wished to reflect his own feelings when he first went down on the field among the pole vaulters—namely, that it was all a blur to him, the scene so new to his senses that he could not perceive the event. It was, he admits, "a simple-minded response," but one he thought he should reflect on film. Only after watching for some time did the particulars of the event begin to come into focus, and the sounds become familiar—the scamper of feet down the runway, the thud of the pole into the box and the puff of the athlete's body landing in the foam-rubber pit, the latter the first sound the audience hears.