Reviews

The Quietest Sound (Austin Film Festival ’06)

For most, the recent environment of cinema is the unthinkable mix of brilliant innovation and boring stagnation. The former, is characterized by filmmakers like Gondry and Aronofsky who are brave enough to play around with storytelling styles and camera work. The latter is characterized by the majority of films that can be found on the marquee at your local 800-screen mega-multiplex-o-rama.
By  · Published on November 8th, 2006

Release Date: TBA

For most, the recent environment of cinema is the unthinkable mix of brilliant innovation and boring stagnation. The former, is characterized by filmmakers like Gondry and Aronofsky who are brave enough to play around with storytelling styles and camera work. The latter is characterized by the majority of films that can be found on the marquee at your local 800-screen mega-multiplex-o-rama. This situation has created high demand for independent films that take a different slant, but it seems that many of these films – admittedly amateurish – either rely solely on a hook or bypass being interesting in hopes of selling out. The Quietest Sound does not fall into these categories. With a shockingly innovative narrative style bolstered by an intense storyline, this film satisfies in a way most films can’t.

The Quietest Sound
has guts. It is one, seventy-five minute long, continuous shot of a woman as she sits in a police interrogation room. There are no cut-aways, no fade outs, no punch ins. What you see is what you get for over an hour. If that’s enough to get you to the screening, great. If it sounds like it might get boring, it doesn’t. Plus, the filmmakers were smart enough to explain the gimmick within the story – it’s the camcorder tape that the detectives made of her interview, and they can’t turn it off or they risk facing scrutiny of falsification once the tape is used in a court of law. By this point in the movie, you realize you’re not watching a gimmick, you’re watching a great film.

Elizabeth (Catherine E. Johnson) is frantic. Brought into the police station for another round of questioning about her missing four-year old daughter Chloe (Elanor Koster), she cannot understand why the police are wasting time recounting her details instead of out looking for the creepy man she saw just moments before losing her daughter in a Wal-Mart. On the other side of the table are Blake (Michael Tezla) and Ryan (Chris Carlson), the policemen trying to get to the truth. After a winding path of frustration, doubt, allegations of child abuse, unreliable details, and police bullying, the interview leads to a startling climax and a twist ending that leaves the audience ice cold.

One thing I can’t do enough is praise the concept of the film, but it’s execution is really what deserves the credit. Too often, films are made to stand on the legs of some clever hook alone. Too often, critics claim that an idea behind a film is good, but could have been done better. Too often, independent films stay below the radar because they deserve it. The Quietest Sound defies all of these to take a gripping story, tell it in a fascinating, different way, and tell it using capable actors. Catherine E. Johnson does an outstanding job as the worried young mother dealing with a missing child. She’s dynamic – vulnerable and submissive, but she grows in determination and then fluctuates between emotions as the policemen guide her along. It’s also impressive to see an actress handle herself on screen for over an hour and never lose an audience’s interest.

Oddly enough, there’s not much more to talk about – editing and cinematography don’t exist. But that’s a great thing. Imagine a film where storytelling, great storytelling, is the only focus. There are no explosions or fancy tricks, which may bother some, but for those out there that want to be brought near heart failure with only spoken words and a static camera, this film will deliver. It’s realistic, gritty, and a great mystery thriller that relies on its situation to shock. Considering the current movie environment and its lack of creativity or follow-through, more films like The Quietest Sound need to be made.

The Upside: A completely different narrative style, done well.

The Downside: It takes a few moments to dig into this movie, and the rolling time/date marker at the camcorder’s bottom left corner is a nice touch, but it’s also a bit distracting.

On the Side: It was filmed entirely in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Final Grade: A

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.