Silence. Silence could be a state of mind; a deliberate action that expresses repressed thoughts and emotions or one that personifies seething rage imploding in the hidden corners of our psyche. The word, however, has often been synonymous with boredom and tedium in general discourses on cinema. To what extent that is true will always remain subjective and is one that triggers an enormous debate. I for one have always been intrigued by deeply contemplative and meditative silences. Endless, fascinating conversations can be really engaging but silence often manages to speak a lot more than phrases and syllables. This article takes a look at films that make the best use of silences. It should also be noted that the silence here refers to, not just the sound, but the emphasis on the characters’ emotions as well and the list is a hybrid mix of films that use music and natural sounds to accentuate the silence consuming the characters. With all that said now, let’s jump ahead and catch some great movies.
10. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Sergio Leone has never done a film in his career that has fallen short of being epic. Leone’s cinematic aesthetics comprises of long shots, close-ups and minimal dialogues. And the final installment of the iconic ‘Dollars Trilogy’ was the apex of Leone’s cinematic prowess and vision. ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ follows three gunslingers looking for treasure buried in a remote cemetery amidst the violent chaos of the American Civil War. Replete with memorably sweeping scores by the great Ennio Morricone, the film features very less dialogues with Sergio Leone letting the viewers savor the acting performances, the characters’ internal conflicts using intense close-up shots as the brooding silences of his characters, complimented by Morricone’s epic scores, claw on to you, wrapping you with a sense of unnerving coldness in anticipation of the imminent mayhem.
9. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Like Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson is a chameleon. With every film, Anderson constructs a different world, crafts a different story while drastically changing his approach towards every film, making him one of the most daring and ambitious auteurs of our times. And to think that he could top a film like ‘Magnolia’ itself is a testament to his genius. After the exuberant ‘Boogie Nights’, profound ‘Magnolia’ and the quirky ‘Punch Drunk Love’, Anderson turns to a more formalistic and subtle style of filmmaking unlike any of his previous works. The ever enigmatic beauty of Daniel Plainview’s inner psyche is poetically explored in eerie silences. The opening 15 minutes of the film in itself is a staggering achievement in filmmaking where a single line of dialogue isn’t spoken as Anderson establishes Plainview’s motivations, piquing his viewers’ fascination for the character without being explicit in his approach.