Feb 262017
 

Taken from the book, Quiet Cinema.

Quietness is the unspoken word; the wind in the trees; the tragic loneliness of the father peeling an apple at the end of Ozu’s Late Spring (1949); the pause after the two notes in the Jaws Theme in which the length of each diminishing musical rest is equal to the distance between the shark and its victim.
Quietness is a break or pause that creates unresolved tensions; the blank screen before the film begins; the silence in-between two actions; the empty landscape waiting for a person to arrive – quietness appears within the limits of human expectation.
Quietness is anticipation: a forest without birdsong may evoke the presence of a large animal; a kitchen without a refrigerator hum may evoke the presence of an intruder.
Quietness is withholding: In Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005), the director listens to a tape containing the sounds of Timothy the Grizzly Man being eaten alive by a bear – Herzog’s concluding words ‘you must never listen to this’ confirms our horror while we waited in quietness.
Quietness is a dynamic which only becomes apparent when associated with other sounds or silence: in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), cutting from inside and outside the spaceship reveals the infinite black universe as truly silent, while inside, much to our absent-mindedness of monotonous sound, we hear room tone. Only after sound ceases, does previously unacknowledged noise become apparent.
Quietness is distance: In Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), after a dreamy levitation scene on board a spaceship, a Pieter Brueghel painting is accompanied by quiet voices diluted by long reverberations like in a distant painting gallery, and in his film The Sacrifice (1986) a lonely Swedish island is continuously underscored by a quiet ship’s horn and a woman singing from afar.
Quietness is a mode of listening; a filtered coherence; a refinement of sound in which we can decipher the quartertones amongst the clash of other instruments in an orchestra, or when listening to long reverberations of a church bell the quiet ear identifies hidden sub-harmonics and overtones consisting of intervals an octave, fifth and minor third apart from the nominal note.
I see quietness and stillness as a presence, not an absence, and everything else leans on them: sounds give structure to silence; dialogue accentuates pauses; movements weigh on stasis; information shapes the unknown. Quietness is tension and release – it is dissonance and consonance.
The filmmakers who knew how to cultivate this type of quietness, did the one thing least expected of filmmaking: they shut their eyes – and their films resembled what they saw in darkness.
Read more…

© Danny Hahn. Copyright. 2016

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)