Cinema Review: Silence

DIR: Pat Collins WRI: Pat Collins, co-written by Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride and Sharon Wooley PRO: Tina Moran DOP: Richard Kendrick ED: Tadhg O’Sullivan  Cast: Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, Andrew Bennett, Marie Coyne, Tommy Fahy.

 

Pitched somewhere between documentary and fictional film Silence gently eases us through a defiantly abstract story. It stars Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde as a man who is striving to capture silence on audio, or the closest approximation to it. Wandering across the Irish landscape he attempts to locate a place untouched by man-made noise to fuel this private obsession and the film employs a great deal of natural longueurs to illustrate the natural splendour of the countryside.

 

Eoghan’s crusade brings him into contact with a few different characters who like himself appear to live on the fringe of a world slightly more exaggerated than real life and it’s in this mingling of the real and fantasy that the film retains its mystery.

 

I notice that the character’s name which is shared by the actor is only uttered once in the film casually by an old man he converses with near the end, the line between improvising and script becoming blurred. The mix of professional actors and real people lends an unsteady air to the whole proceeding. With the lead also being an audio engineer outside his acting work this lends an authenticity to his role.

 

When divorced from the overriding idea of silence as an artistic or personal force the film is essentially a prodigal son story, the man afraid to return to the island of his youth, to the weighty silence of home. The character is very remote, letting very little personal information trickle out in his various conversations, his discussion with a writer erring on the side of abstract analysis, his conversation with another man being far more generalised.

 

It is interesting to note that it is when faced with a younger generation and through the Irish language (obviously a skill he does not employ in Berlin where he currently lives, one of the few concrete facts we are told about him) that he seems to open up the most when faced with the naivety of youth. The boy he discusses his life with seems to ask far more probing questions unknowingly than other adults featured. Perhaps the boy lacks a filter or finesse the other characters would have used when discussing such matters.

 

Visually stunning, the array of locations from Berlin via Cork, Mayo and Belfast amongst others is caught with a loving eye and an artist’s appreciation of scope. However I can’t deny that the film left me somewhat cold as the quest is somewhat academic and sterile and the character too vague. I understand this was a choice on its creator’s part and having a more conventional structure and protagonist would have run the risk of sentimentality I do wish there was more of a hook here. While trying to avoid maudlin clichés they fell afoul of the other extreme and have crafted a cold arty piece that while masterfully shot its fidelity to silence leaves all other senses out of the loop.

 

Emmet O’Brien

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
87 mins

Silence is released on 27th July 2012

http://www.harvestfilms.ie/silence

 

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One Reply to “Cinema Review: Silence”

  1. I didn’t feel the need for ‘a hook’ myself. I feel that contriving such things as hooks is what denies filmmaking’s potential to effectively appeal to an inner world. Hooks have their place of course but not in a film like this one. There was the understated mystery of what lay behind the chief character and that was enough of ‘a hook’ for me. I found the film far from cold and academic and liked it because it didn’t condescend and was confident enough not to pander. This film is not akin to a plot driven novel or an austere thesis. Silence is more a gently recited poem. It tells the truth about the interplay between people and the environments they inhabit. It did this expertly and beautifully.

    Silence is the best Irish film I have ever seen.

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