Silence is the best cure

By Jo Phillips

Within this modern life and non-stop worldwide communication, it seems that everyday reality, solidarity, peace and quiet have become a rare commodity .  The technological revolution has made the world so much smaller but so much noisier.  We are so often advised that we need to take time out, to rest and enjoy the silence..well – particularly  if you are a city dweller – where are you supposed to find said silence?

Director Patrick Shens’s new film In Pursuit of Silence celebrates just that …Silence.  Starting out with an ode to John Cage’s seminal 1952 composition 4’33”, (no instruments are played for 4 minutes 33 seconds) it feels initially eery to most of us because we are so surrounded by noise, even if its just the background streetlights, electronics, airplanes or the ambient everyday hum. But the film does move on to mould together sounds and visuals, building up and then slowing down. A field, a petrol station, a jet plane and even the Lloyd’s building in London (during the 2 minute remembrance day silence) introduce us to the idea of hearing the sounds around us, and really hearing the ‘silence’.

This may initially seem more like a straight forward documentary celebration of silence with its spiritual and physical benefits, yet it is so much more.  Firstly it testifies to the utter wonders all around us replete with their own sounds, ones that nature generously provides.  Despite the name of it, the film does have a soundtrack, composed by Alex Lu, which creates an antithesis to natures regular soundscape.

In Pursuit of Silence  additionally allows a road of return. A return to self; after all, if there is nothing to hear, there is much more time to think because noise alienates us from ourselves and provides a diversion from self contemplation.  Silence is said to have numerous physical health benefits alongside those of the spiritual and mental variety.  The film that took four years to make ultimately studies our relationship with silence and sound, and on how noise impacts our lives.

Patrick Shen is a multiple award-winning filmmaker.  He made his feature directorial debut in 2005 with the critically-acclaimed Flight from DeathIn 2009, Shen premiered his award-winning The Philosopher Kings. His third documentary La Source premiered at AFI Docs in June 2012, followed by Hypaethral in 2015.


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