Film Review: In Pursuit of Silence
What exactly is silence? Patrick Shen’s hypnotic documentary, shot around the world, seeks to explore both the scientific and psychological concepts of silence, and posits the idea that we should treat quietness like a kind of natural resource—a steadily dwindling one, in an increasingly cluttered and cacophonous world.
The film’s form reflects its themes: It opens on an extended montage of silent moments, and the talking heads interviewed often pause for lengthy periods before speaking. This doesn’t result in boredom or tedium, or even awkwardness. Instead, the silence of these subjects makes us pay even more attention to what they are saying—about as perfect an encapsulation of the film’s theme as one can imagine. But for all that, this is a complex work, too, exploring the many facets and challenges of a life reoriented toward silence. Looking inward, listening to the world around you, mindfulness in general: These are important issues, but they’re also complicated ones, and Shen doesn’t shy away from that. This is a truly unique piece of filmmaking.