out of Five
Running Time: 84
An immersive and creative appreciation of the Irish landscape, culture and language as shown by sound recordings of environments untouched by man-made noise, archive footage and frank dinner table discussion.
What’s it all about?
Eoghan, a sound recordist, has been sent on a job to Ireland that eventually brings him back to the small island where he grew up. Time spent alone in his task of searching for silence leads him to ponder on life and takes him back to fond childhood memories.
Director Pat Collins makes sure to immerse the audience in the sights and sounds of the countryside that Eoghan is recording. The swell of quiet and poignant talk about the folk songs Eoghan’s father used to sing to him alongside the observational nature of the film gently lulls you to find the emotional core of a man who has forgotten his heritage.
As Eoghan once again finds beauty in his surroundings so can the audience. Collins is also attuned to the reflective mood of a person returning to a place that holds such personal historic significance and this is what makes it much more than a man wandering from shore to shore. Collins’ background in documentary filmmaking flows over into his first dramatic feature with shots of the landscape wonderfully composed and conversations with locals feeling completely natural.
Silence works so well mainly because you are following both Eoghan’s footsteps and memories. There’s some superb archive footage that takes you by surprise and transports you to a different time when the small villages were thriving with activity and community. In one of the strangest moments you witness a family dressed in Sunday best taking to the sea to say goodbye to a pet. The sound is painstakingly designed to both soothe and alarm; from the chirp of birdsong to the howling winds of coastal areas, sound takes you from the serene to the haunting.
Silence is reminiscent of early work by Werner Herzog in its ability to reach to the fundamentals of the human experience in the simplest of ways. Discussions over the dinner table bring humour but there’s also a melancholy and sadness portrayed, as Eoghan is forced to face his past and consider the reality that much of Ireland’s rich tradition is dying as its older residents pass away. Although the setting is Ireland, Eoghan’s journey back to his birthplace is one that many will be able to relate to.
If you’re looking for a small vacation from summer blockbuster season, Silence is the perfect getaway. The stories, songs and philosophical ponderings are all wrapped up in a hypnotic visual and aural rhythm that comes with an underlying emotional weight.