In Pursuit of Silence
Applauded filmmaker Patrick Shen’s latest piece, In Pursuit of Silence, is a moving, if somewhat literal, exploration of that increasingly scarce commodity in the relentless din of today’s high-technological society.
Made over a period of two years, the film features beautiful imagery shot by producer and documentary cinematographer Brandon Vedder in various places around the world. A few examples include a solitary tree in the midst of a cornfield; a catholic monk, motionless on his chair like a Hammershøi painting, reading in the dim light of his chamber; the poetic slow-motion splashes and droplets of water during the purification of utensils prior to a Japanese tea ceremony. Each tableau, like yin and yang, or the classical architectural concept of solids and voids, are accompanied by the complementary soundtrack of natural silence.
The film also shows a series of interviews with various scientists, biologists, and theologians, their voices cutting through the muteness like ice water. Most notably, excerpts from talks with composer John Cage, whose infamous composition 4’33 inspired the movie’s lyrical introduction, which is embellished with this quiet music, designed – as Cage wished for his own piece – to draw attention to the sounds that can be heard within each space. Cage’s fascination with silence was, according to the film, inspired by the saying that where there is soundlessness there is God, and scenes shot at a Zen Buddhist monastery in Tokyo and at a Trappist monastery in Iowa, show the very similar techniques of silent solitude that make up the daily routine of the monks in search of spiritual enlightenment.
We are reminded of how much we are able to hear once we allow time with silence, both in the world around us as well as within, which is perhaps why it is so rare – it is said at one point that truth is revealed in the absence of sound. The film loses some of its lyricism during the second half when viewers are shown a series of machines designed to minimise noise pollution, rendering obvious some intentional product placement, but it ultimately succeeds as a wake-up call for a world obsessed and drenched in noise. A moment of silence, a melody all but forgotten for most Londoners, helps one to appreciate the beauty of sound.
In Pursuit of Silence is released nationwide on 21st October 2016.
Watch the trailer for In Pursuit of Silence here: