Watch This: Thoughtful Video Essay on the Use of Silence in Cinema

August 15, 2016
Source: Vimeo

Silence in Cinema - When Words Fail

There are many different techniques that filmmakers can use to enhance their storytelling, add or alter our emotions, or convey a message without dialogue. One of those techniques is the use of silence, or obstructed dialogue, or putting music or sound over talking to convey a feeling. Editor David Verdeure made an outstanding video essay for Fandor called "When Words Fail" looking at this technique, and providing a number of different examples. "The reasons for the use of this stylistic stratagem are diverse—they range from comedic to horrific, from wistful to suspenseful." The video tries to give some potential explanation for each scene, but it's also cool to see these moments and make whatever you want of them in your own mind.

This video essay was edited by David Verdeure of Filmscalpel, and made for Fandor's Keyframe. Original introduction: "Sometimes the talkies go silent. As French director Robert Bresson noted, the soundtrack invented silence. Or at least the meaningful use of silence. Many films have used this to great effect: There are a number of memorable scenes in which we can see characters talk without understanding or even hearing them. What words, meanings, and themes do these silences convey?" For the complete list of films that appear in the video head over to Fandor. The last shot (also the teaser image) is from Fellini's La Dolce Vita. It's always inspiring to see clever videos about filmmaking techniques. Now go make your own movie.

Find more posts: To Watch, Video Essays



When done well, like the examples from the video, silence is golden. But it can also very easily become heavy handed and border on parody at times too.

DAVIDPD on Aug 15, 2016


Which scenes are you referring to? Now I want to go and watch these and see what you mean... Haha.

Alex Billington on Aug 16, 2016


There are a few scene on the spacecraft where all hell is breaking loose and we can't really hear much of the dialogue. Another scene has Michael Caine dying in the hospital, and he whispers something to Jessica Chastain, but it's totally unintelligible. Anyway, Nolan addressed it in this post: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/christopher-nolan-breaks-silence-interstellar-749465

TheOct8pus on Aug 16, 2016

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