4 min read

The importance of silence in cinema

Anubhav Chakraborty

June 15, 2021 4 min read

” Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”


In the screen of a million jubilations and loud sighs, one frequently looks for a moment of release. A moment not full of levity but that which plays an integral part in the course of a narrative. The moment of silence could be short or prolonged, profound or hollow but never without a consequence. The following scene must reveal the nature of the previously displayed silent sequence, anticipating the curious viewer.

Thus silence turns every passive viewer into an active participant, floating and sinking with the ebb and flow of the tale. This silence could be of different kinds. It could be self-serving where it would serve a well structured definite function. The scene where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) commits his first act of murder in Godfather, he appears nervous. (uniforumtz.com) He is perspiring profusely, almost contemplating a return to the life away from the family feuds, the violence and brutality of the different clans, where he could be happy again with the woman he is married to.

During Michael’s intimate contemplation the director attempts to divert the attention of the audience from Michael’s consciousness to the sound of the trains outside, almost a reflection of the chaos Michael is confronting internally. The silence plays a self explanatory function here. By the time Michael goes ahead with his initial plan of seeking revenge, the audience could fit the pieces and understand the significant role played by silence in its totality.

Another would be when silence complements speech or action. A feature apparent in the movies of Andrei Tarkovsky. One is reminded of the sequence where a man walks silently with a candle in ‘Nostalghia’. The silence here proves to be just the perfect partner for the slow gait of a lost man. One is also reminded of the long pauses in the conversations between the poet and the professor in ‘Stalker’.

The pauses offer us with a moment of reflection, to tinker upon the points made by either and justify them against the backdrop of modern progress or regression respectively. The widely talked about sequence of the car moving through the various contours of sensations in ‘Solaris’ offers yet another example when silence dissolves the boundary between the tangible and the intangible,

it must through the journey inside a never ending tunnel, indicate the never ending retrospections of a man in agony. It would be unfair not to mention the scene of the burning house in ‘Mirror’ if one must understand the agony of silence. Silence grieves in the form of raindrops revealing the beauty of destruction, the chaos eternally present in solitude.
Yet another form of silence , the most potent form would be when the plot is about silence. Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s ‘Asha Jaoar Majhe’ is a brilliant example where the story revolves around silence, things happen between gazes and ignorances , between pauses and movements without any sound. One is also reminded of the satires of Munrau. Silence never fails to amuse the lovers of cinema, baffle them and eventually lead them to a moment of contemplation, that too in silence.

Leonora Carrington beautifully explains a sequence, painting a picture of solitude that would harden the necessity of silence in all spectrums of life, in terror , in pain and in ecstasy.
” We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”


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