MUBIVIEWS: SILENCE [day five]
This week, our writers discuss a film that speaks quietly to its audience and requires the recognition of the quiet intensity of the narrative. SILENCE (Pat Collins 2012) is about a sound recordist, Eoghan (Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride), who returns to Ireland after 15 years of living in Germany to record areas free of man-made sound. During his quest, he is influenced by folklore and a series of challenging encounters that reflect the intangible silence of his childhood. The film celebrates the beautifully poetic landscape of Ireland and the stories it has to tell.
LISTENING OUT FOR HOME
In the film SILENCE (Pat Collins 2012), Eoghan is tasked with returning to his Irish homeland - after being away 15 years - to record sounds free from man-made noise. The purpose of his labour is not disclosed, only that he has been employed to do so. To achieve silence, however, seems futile.
To be able to record noises truly free of any man-made sound is unfeasible as, to be able to record sound in general, it requires the use of a man-made machine which in turn makes a sound. Even the most minimal hum of a battery pack prevents silence from being achieved. At one point a man stumbles upon Eoghan and asks "So you’re here?" and Eoghan replies "I am here yeah, but I’m keeping quiet". This conversation seems reminiscent of the old thought experiment: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Ergo, if Eoghan is there to record it then his presence will prevent the goal of silence.
Eoghan seemingly knows that recording silence is impossible, which therefore raises the question of why is he doing it? Or if he really is being employed to do it, what is the purpose of his employer? It seems that this quest for silence is simply an unexplained plot device in order for Eoghan to return home and face his past, as his new life in Berlin acts as an escape from his vague but painful memories of Ireland. Eoghan returning to his homeland is significant as he becomes the tree from the thought experiment. If he is not physically in Ireland, does it continue to exist without his presence? What he slowly learns through the film is that life continues, regardless of if he is there to witness it.
Every day this week a different writer will provide their perspective on our MUBIVIEWS film and each post will be open to comments from our readers. Watch SILENCE on mubi.com until 26 April 2017 and join the discussion!
14/4/2017 05:05:23 pm
You're totally correct in your argument, recording "silence" is impossible. Silence itself does not exist, as it means the total lack of sound. In addition to this, Sound recordists often have to act "the invisible man" during recording or filming, as any noise they make will be picked up; it offers a philosophical look towards how Eoghan himself might be feeling invisible.
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