Review - Silence


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Pat Collin's meditative movie may not work for everyone
Silence (2012)
Pat Collins
Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride
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A man returns to Ireland after a 15 year absence in search of a place without artificial noise and finds himself drawn back to his roots as his search becomes ever more esoteric.

Silence is patently an art film, let that be known from the start. Created by documentary maker Pat Collins with the help of writer and lead Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, the film mixes several different styles to defy easy description.

Much of Silence involves Eoghan walking from one place to another, setting up his sound recording equipment before wandering off while the camera lingers on the mic. Long stretches are concerned with focussing on that lonely piece of technology in the wilderness, on the susurration of wind of its surface, the troughs and furrows of noise which comes directly from nature.

From time to time, our lead chances upon some human interaction and it’s here that the genre begins to shift. These conversations are mostly naturalistic, suggesting a camera merely caught the exchange while following Eoghan on his journey. But the topics can sometimes feel forced, like when a random stranger invites him over for dinner and starts delving into the notion of silence, making wild analogies to mortality and pushing the tone ever closer to excessive pretentiousness.

It’s a fate that the film can’t really avoid – this is after all a spare feature about a bearded man searching for silence – and Collins does lay it on thick from time to time, particularly in the middle portion. It’s those moments that come closer to a true documentary that work best, like a moment in an isolated museum or a chance encounter with a man from the character past. There’s a sense of discovery, of lingering on details and people and places, which would be fitting if you returned home after a long absence.

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Mac Giolla Bhride is a compelling enough presence, playing a character you suspect isn’t much far removed from himself. He broods on intangibles and has a very impressive beard, opening up to strangers in a hesitant but fairly likeable way. The non actors are generally watchable, though there are moments when the director’s hand is a little too much in evidence.

Technically, Silence is suitably impressive – especially for a small budget local production. The landscapes are spectacularly captured and there’s an interesting play with sound and music which makes those quiet interludes a little more engaging.

Silence is a difficult film to review. On the one hand it’s impossible to recommend for casual viewing, with a frustratingly slow pace and some meandering philosophy which spirals off into a typically ambiguous ending. On the other hand, the glacial pace is perfectly suited to rooting the audience in those moments of near silence and the stunning photography and genre-mashing tone will be utterly compelling to some viewers.

Neither documentary nor drama and firmly rooted in the arthouse, Silence is an unusual Irish movie artefact and worth a punt if you find the concept in any way interesting.

5 Stars
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