Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Unexpected Power Of Silence

By Lars Trodson

About halfway through Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” he does something so basic, so fundamental, that it almost seems revolutionary. What does he do? He takes a few seconds, no more than five, to enjoy a moment of silence.

That’s right. No dialogue. No explosions. No engines revving. It’s just a simple pan shot over the Hawaiian landscape and the Pacific Ocean, and all you hear is the breeze as the characters in the movie stand there appreciating nature. In the context of today’s moviemaking it almost seemed -- should I even say it? -- brave.

It wasn’t always this rare. I watched “The Bridge On the River Kwai” recently. That’s about as big as a movie can get, and even in the midst of an enormous amount of action and talk and scenery, David Lean took a few moments to shoot a scene at sunset where the two main characters stand in quiet to assess what they have just been through.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, there’s almost 10 minutes where not a word is spoken. Jimmy Stewart is simply following Kim Novak through San Francisco.

It’s a powerful thing, silence, and can be just as dramatic as any dialogue, car chase or spaceships flying through the universe. Dramatists once understood its appeal, and its mystery. But it’s become anathema to filmmakers, which is of course too bad.

Peace and quiet is something we all crave, and we probably should try to enjoy it while we can.

Take a look at this New York Times article here: