In Pursuit of Silence




A film that challenges the way we live today as being superficial and unhealthy.

In Pursuit of Silence

Noises off!


In the past we have on occasion seen documentary films that positively encourage their audience to meditate (some but not all have shared with the viewer what it feels like to live in a monastery or convent). However, I cannot recall any film prior to Patrick Shen’s In Pursuit of Silence which has gone all out to espouse the notion of silence as a key element in human life that is in danger of being lost.


With only very occasional movement, Shen’s film, photographed by him and Brandon Vedder, asks us to contemplate the natural world caught for the most part in static images, but it deliberately opts not to take the avant-garde route which might have involved holding on to any of these images for minutes at a time. In making his film Shen visited eight countries over two years and, given the nature of Zen and such traditions as the tea ceremony, it is hardly surprising that Japan makes a notable contribution here. But, if the traditional calm of the forest is emphasised, so too is the onslaught of noise so widely present today that it is a notable contributor to stress and threatens to cut off humanity from its true roots.


Arguments are put forward that by embracing silence more often one can find an awareness of the truth about our existence since it speaks of the essential nature of things which modern technology distracts us from recognising. Some audiences will respond strongly to all this and the film does, indeed, make an impact. However, it contains serious misjudgments. If it seems longer than its 82 minutes, that may be attributed to the fact that the scope of the subject is such that there is little sense of the material being shaped. But ironically the major criticism is that the film doesn't deal in silence enough. Initially striking images are accompanied by natural sounds as one would expect in this context, but before long Alex Lu’s music score seems to take over. It is not bad music, but it clashes with the concept behind the film. Furthermore, talk as well as music hardly ever seems to stop as authors and others keep adding their thoughts. At times you wish they would just shut up - but, in a sense, that proves that the film has successfully made the point that we would gain from more silence in our lives.




Featuring  Greg Hindy, George Prochnik, Pico Iyer.


Dir Patrick Shen, Pro Andrew Brumme, Patrick Shen and Brandon Vedder, partly inspired by George Prochnik's book In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, Ph Patrick Shen and Brandon Vedder, Ed Patrick Shen, Music Alex Lu.

Dartmouth Films/Transcendental Media-Dartmouth Films.
82 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 21 October 2016. Cert. PG.