Published Nov 20, 2012Anyone that lives in a metropolitan area is subjected to so many man-made sounds in a given minute that it would be impossible to list them all. Just standing at the front door of an urban home would subject one's ears to the sound of cars, buses, people, music and even the occasional plane flying overhead, while indoors, the hum of a furnace, television or fan of a desktop computer would persist in the background.
It has become an impossibility to escape sound and replace it with the sound of nature; or better yet, natural silence.
Part experimental documentary and part narrative, Silence, directed by Ireland's Pat Collins, explores the notion of stillness. This film centers on Berlin-based Eoghan, a professional sound technician, as he returns to Ireland for the first time in fifteen years for a job offer that will find him filming and recording locales free from man-made sound. Furthering the need of silence, the start of the film finds Eoghan breaking the news of his departure to his girlfriend with the sound drowned out by the sound of a passing train.
Eoghan travels to Northwest Ireland, with the camera following, to isolated places within the Irish countryside, attempting to record the natural sounds free from the taint of humans. Progressively, his focus shifts from the natural quietness of the environment to a more elusive silence.
Years of emigration from the region and modernization have changed the landscape of Northern Ireland, leaving behind a sense of emptiness. The journey slowly becomes that of Eoghan searching for the forgotten stories of generations past, acknowledging that he too played a part by moving to Berlin 15 years prior.
Regrettably, Eoghan's backstory isn't expanded upon and we can only assume by his sullen face and body language that he is carrying some deep emotional baggage.
While the pacing of the film is gentle with very little dialogue, the cinematography speaks volumes. Collins' portrayal of the Irish landscape is breathtaking and the lure of the countryside is captured impeccably within this endearing film.
Silence screens on Wednesday, November 21st at 6pm at the Royal. (Element Pictures)