Silence is not exactly the absence of noise. It is in fact, the minimal use of sound effects, commercial music and overly composed scores. Silence has the ability to play into a film's plot, as in Mission: Impossible (1996) where Tom Cruise’s character thwarts a sound-sensitive alarm system or in the case of horror movies, where a drawn-out silence is just as scary as a scream.
With that, we give you five movies that use silence in a powerful fashion:
The Silence (1963)
Ingmar Bergman's 1963 film, The Silence, tells the tale of two sisters who are travelling to Central Europe, which is on the brink of a war, only to explore the sensuous, disturbing dynamics of their relationship. The film portrays a world devoid of God, of affection and language.
As the credits roll in the opening scene, we hear the rapid ticking of a clock which creates a sense of urgency. However, with the final shot of the credits, the ticking stops abruptly. Besides serving as a reminder of how life passes and death approaches, it is also symbolic of the lack of communication between the protagonists.
Raging Bull (1980)
Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, follows Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a middleweight boxer and a jealous lover, who is always fighting for something. His overinflated ego, and a disturbing sense of honor leads him to the top in the ring but destroys his life outside it.
The film has one of the best uses of silence. It is evident in the fight scene between LaMotta and Ray (Johnny Barnes). LaMotta has an undying impulse for self-destruction and his ultimate demise inside the ring is captured with a touch of silence where Scorsese tones down the audiences’ noise and scores while focusing on the rivals.
Panic Room (2002)
Panic Room is the story of a divorced woman and her diabetic daughter, who take refuge in the safe room of their new house, when three men in search of a missing fortune break-in.
What is most prominent in this David Fincher film is the fact that music is absent throughout most of the suspenseful scenes, allowing foley to be one of the key elements. This only helped in making everything twice as suspenseful as it would have been in the case of an overly composed score.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
This film by the Coen brothers, is about Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who is pursued by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a psychopathic killer who wants the money Moss discovers while strolling through the aftermath of a drug deal.
In a particular scene, Anton has a lifeless characteristic look on his face while he flips a coin to decide the death of his possible victim. It is visually portrayed in the simplest way possible. There are just two over-the-shoulder shots and few close ups. Also, it the use of silence that sells this scene. The use of score would have probably ruined the awkward atmosphere.
Gravity revolves around two astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). The two are left alone in space after the destruction of their space shuttle.
The film actually has a meticulously well-crafted sound design. However, it still plays along with this obscure abnormality of silence in space. There are a few moments that are played in extreme silence and the only thing one hears is few sighs of breath and screams from inside the suit. It is the need to survive that director Alfonso Cuaron tries to emphasize.