CANNES 2010

Cannes Review: Gustavo Hernández's Film 'The Silent House'

by
May 22, 2010

Gustavo Hernández's The Silent House

One film at Cannes that was particularly unique was Gustavo Hernández's The Silent House, or La Casa Muda, a Uruguayan horror film shot entirely in one-take. This 79-minute haunted house film was shot on a professional Canon DSLR camera in one full non-stop, non-cutting take. While the film's story didn't really stand out, it was a technical and visual achievement like no other, and incredible to watch simply because it was amazing that Hernández and his cast could pull of something like this. If you're a fan of horror or want to just want to be mesmerized by a great technical achievement like this, The Silent House is a must see.

Yes, I know that Alfred Hitchcock's Rope is presented in entirely one-take as well, but that film was just cut together using shorter 10-minute scenes, whereas The Silent House was actually shot (as far as we know) in one non-stop take, from start to finish. The plot in the film follows a daughter (Florencia Colucci) and her father as they (starting outside) head to an old house at dusk to prepare it to be sold. As they settle in for the night, the daughter hears a creepy sound upstairs, and the craziness begins. It mostly takes place inside of this house, but there's even a scene that leads outside into the forest briefly, then back into the house again.

If you think you've seen some amazing cinematography before, just wait until you see this. The Silent House is beautifully shot, in every sense of that word, and cinematographer Pedro Luque (who shot Panic Attack) is an absolute master with the camera. He frames certain scenes flawlessly for the story's sake; I still almost don't believe that he was able to actually keep the camera positioned perfectly in every scene for a non-stop 75 minutes. It's shot like a regular film with a cameraman, but he plays with angles, mirrors and positioning in ways you've probably never seen before; it's truly a technical marvel to experience, I can guarantee that!

The only problem is that, despite all these impeccable visuals, the story is a bit dull and the ending falls a bit flat. Additionally, the film could use a good sound mixing overhaul (and I hope if a US distributor picks it up they'll give them some extra money to have the sound professionally re-done), because it sounded like it was recorded in mono. The story is based on real events that occurred at a mysterious house exactly like this in 1944, but most won't remember it for its plot, just the visuals. Although I was also amazed that lead actress Florencia Colucci could deliver as superb of a non-stop performance as she did. See this as soon as you can!

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  • Cracky
    Neat. Bah to the story. If it's as technical as you claim, then I'm on it. I love when cinematography get super creative.
  • Jacob Crim
    Always wanted to see a film shot in one take, will DEFINITELY see this.
  • Mark Giles
    The Canon DSLR's are not capable of doing a 79 minute take for two reasons. Due to file size restrictions the camera will only record for 10 minutes and the other is the sensor overheats after ten minutes of continuous use and shuts the camera off. I've done some projects with the Canons and had to turn them off between takes to push them threw the day otherwise they would overheat. On one particular day I had to keep setting the camera on a bag of ice to keep it from overheating. They deliver great results but are not ready for prime time.
  • David Banner
    Busted! Mark above said it all. There are ways around this, but its very cumbersome. Still, I'll watch it, even just to see where a possible edit or 5 might be :)
  • crumb
    i remember reading over at slashfilm that, yeah, with the camera they used it isn't possible to film it all in one scene. i'll still watch this, just for the hell of it.
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    #3 - Yea I heard Peter from SlashFilm say that and we've been arguing about it ever since. Playing devil's advocate, there may be some techniques they used. Either recording to a computer or mobile harddrive directly or maybe having a pocketful of memory cards to change out instantaneously. And I think you're wrong about the "overheating" part. I'm curious to ask the filmmakers more bout this, but I'm pretty sure they pulled it off non-stop or very close to non-stop.
  • ryderup
    I've shot some stuff with the Canon 550d and 1) you can't shoot HD with it for longer than 12min(?) before it stops automatically. And there would be overheatingproblems if you shoot for 79min... So its it a ROPE kind of film with invisible cuts?
  • Linkfx
    I've shot with the 5D mark 2 on many occassions, you're absolutely wrong that it can only hold ten minutes of footage, it depends on what size your card is that you put in there. I've held definitely over an hours worth of footage on the bigger GB cards, and I've been shooting in true 1080p. You can get around the issue if you shot it in 1080i instead and then uprezzed it later on the computer, which isn't hard. The 5d mark 2 is amazingly powerful and versatile, lightyears ahead of the rest of the other canon cameras. And it's surprisingly cheap with a plethora of beautiful lenses available to shoot with it. As for the overheating problem, if they were shooting a one take feature on it and being honest about it, I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to fix the issue with the right application of money.
  • Linkfx
    Also and let me know if I'm mistaken, but I'm fairly certain the 5d mark 2 can remotely record to a computer wirelessly, although that may just be for still photography.
  • Linkfx
    I know whatever they used to shoot the film on it was def the 5d mark 2 and I'm sure it was a customized rig.
  • bc
    Wasn't Russian Ark filmed in one shot? That movie was amazing in that context.
  • ryderup
    #8 You are wrong. Just like the other Canons cams the 5d breaks the recording after ~10minutes. You can store more video on on one card but not in ONE videofile. As I said, you can only shot for ~10-12minutes traight before the camera itself shuts the recording off. Therefore you can't shoot for 80minutes without a pause. And also. In what way is it LIGHTYEARS ahead of the rest of the Canon cameras? Like the 7d and 550d? Please explain this, because I would argue it is not (when it comes to video).
  • http://www.cinemados.com Andres
    Hey Alex visit the official facebook site of the movie it clearly says that they did invisible cut just as Hitchcock's Rope, you only need to translate a little of Spanish to know this. The point is not about a none stop film but more about a $4000 movie done by 10 people getting into Cannes side by side with all the other big films, who cares if it was shot on one take, they did it with a Photo camera (which has a lot of limitations). Congratulations for pulling this thing off it certainly proves that cinema it's starting a revolution and that you don't need a big production to compete, just talent. more information: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/topic.php?uid=190097645539&topic=17991 cheers
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neil-Parr/100001507652802 Neil Parr
    The obvious problem with LA CASE MUDA was it contained very few scares not to mention the father died pretty much the instant Laura picked up the sickle.  This to even the most casual horror fan was a glaring giveway to the supposed 'twist' ending.  The (not so) high concept of a one take movie was totally lost as it didn't give us anything films like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or REC hadn't already covered.  The only saving grace was the ambiguity of the finale in light of the polaroids and Laura's motivation.  Had she been abused and were her father and Nestor the abusers and if so was she vindicated in her slaughter?  Apart from that I couldn't really recommend the film which felt more like a BBC TV movie of the week than a horror flick...
  • rttew
    this is virtually impossible since seeing the camera can only record in 12 minute intervals and it is stated the film last 79 minutes.
  • Fulgura
    All Canon cameras, with the addition of a hack software called Magic Lantern, can shoot as long as the memory card allows. The 12 min (or 4 GB to put it more correctly) limit is for the standard cameras. With ML and an external recorder, the film can truly be made in one take. Yet, it would be utterly difficult to achive considering the space and some other limitations. Overheating is not necessarily a problem especially if you are shooting in the dark and keep ISO low. This reduces the amount of photons hitting the sensor and keeps the voltage applied to the sensor as well.

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