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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Silence

Directed by: Pat Collins

Produced by: Tina Moran

Screenplay by: Pat Collins
Eoghan Mac Giolla Bride
Sharon Whooley

Starring: Eoghan Mac Giolla Bride
(Others As Themselves)

Cinematography by: Richard Kendrick

Editing by: Tadhg O'Sullivan

Distributed by: Element Pictures Distribution

Release date(s): February 2012 (Ireland)
(Rest of information unavailable)

Running time: 84 minutes

Country: Ireland

Language(s): English

Production budget: (Unavailable)

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)

I think I should abide by the title of this upcoming film and just shut up, because any time I start going on about how many reviews I am going to do, it just comes back to bite me in the ass! Anywho, I'm clamping myself down to my desk, so as to force myself to work on a horrible set of essays, but realistically, I know much time will be invested in doing my film reviews, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted! Enjoy The Silence!

So, thirtieth film review for 2012, and a good excuse to throw out a Depeche Mode reference, here's Silence. I saw this film on a pure whim as part of the Green Screen Film Festival promoted by the Queen's Film Theatre. I knew nothing about it going in, and was pleasantly surprised to see that this was an introduced screening with the film's lead actor/writer Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride curated by my former Film & Sound lecturer Liz Greene. In Silence, he plays a man by the name of Eoghan, a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in fifteen years. That's all the plot you need to know going in, and that's all you're going to get!

The first thing I would like to praise about the film is it's overall tone. As I said, I went into this blank, and as such the way in which the film is designed makes you wonder whether or not this is a documentary. It's a delicately balanced element that works well into the finished piece, which comes across along the lines of meta-fiction, in that you are clearly aware at times of the illusion, but still come question it, especially given that a lot of the details in the script are autobiographical in relation to Eoghan's (the actor playing the character Eoghan's) life. He himself, a non-professional actor and writer by trade, delivers one of the most naturalistic performances I can remember seeing in quite a long time. There's clearly a lot of him in the character, but in the same way I bought Bruno S. as Bruno Stroszek in the Werner Herzog film, I accept Mac Giolla Bride as legitimate in this context. He injects a lot of passion and obsession into the character, and makes him exist, in this fiction, a real human being. Also, being a movie about sound, you'd like to think that the sound design/editing was good, and in this respect it certainly pays off. In the same metafictional approach taken to Eoghan as character/actor, the filmmakers play around with our perception of the diegesis. Whether or not we are made aware of it alternates at various points, and sound wise the whole picture explores an appropriate, wide variety of medium and approaches so that it becomes in more ways than one a transgressive experience. Interesting in relation to this transgression is Richard Kendrick's cinematography. It has an illusory dream-like quality in its approach, some of the construction of the shots resembling something akin to Tarkovsky's Mirror by way of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. Mixing this with so-called 'documentary realist' elements, such as archive footage and talking-heads interviews, nearly all of which  are filmed with a digital camera, blur the lines between documentary film and fiction film, while also falling somewhere along the lines of experimental film. Director Pat Collins, who has worked on and directed several Irish documentary productions, can be praised for this. Like a great fisherman, he has cast his line into deep waters, and has come up with a catch that's one of those rare films that stands as a wholly unique experience. Silence is a great piece that I'd thoroughly recommend.

These kind things being said (what is good about the film is quite extraordinary), there are a few key flaws that keep it from the status of being a masterpiece. I'd be lying if I said that the script wasn't quite choppy in places. Don't get me wrong, many of the individual parts are quite wonderful, but as an overall piece some of them just don't fit in correctly. Because the film retains a fluidity despite being a controlled construction, these bits stick out like sore thumbs, but I don't want to discuss in detail because it involves giving away elements of the plot. Also, the script calls for some stylised elements, and I think some of the stylised elements feel over-stylised in the context that this is uniformly minimalist and 'un-stylistic' if you catch my drift. For instance, the score, which is minimalist in the Philip Glass sense, is very good, but the overall film itself is minimalist and thus the ultimate approach would be to have as little score as possible. In parts, it works, but in others, it intrudes.

Silence is a film with fundamental flaws that would with most others detract significantly from the finished piece. However, what is done well is done as such that it still remains a great picture. The central 'performance' from Eoghan Mac Giolla Bride is supreme in its naturalism, Richard Kendrick's cinematography gives it a real sense of transgression, and director Pat Collins has carefully crafted a unique and interesting metafictional experience. I don't know when you will all be able to see this film on wide release, if at all, but it is well worth the effort seeking out. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool (about to sit down and watch The Stendhal Syndrome, my first venture into the mind of Dario Argento!)

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