Directed by Patrick Shen
1st November 2016
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Given the title of the film it came as no surprise that it took seven minutes before anyone spoke a word. The first speaker was a man undertaking a vow of silence and only communicated through the written word, even when ordering a meal in a cafe.
Director Patrick Shen found no shortage of interesting talking heads to expound on their views of the importance of silence – I prefer the term living a quieter life. Living in silence would be scary, for example, not being able to listen to the wonderful sounds of nature, especially birdsong. If people want complete silence they should become Trappist monks!
Shen’s interviewees, including those from London, Mumbai, Japan and the USA, commented strongly about noise pollution – one of my pet hates – religion, health and for far too long on John Cage’s 4’33” piece of musical silence. The regular referral to this became tiresome, notably when an audience at the Barbican in London rendered great applause to an orchestra, who had sat there for that duration of time without playing a single note of music. Absurd.
The cinematography was utterly beautiful to behold, notably woodland bliss, majestic mountains and the soft sound of wind gently disturbing reeds.
One of the best quotes from the documentary was uttered by Swiss artist Salome Voegelin. Instead of finding silence soothing, it instead led her to the “radical possibility of hearing.”
She also made the valid point about “how much do people obsess about one’s own silence rather than hearing others and the environment.”