Making Noise Quietly

 

starstarhalf

 


A work acclaimed on stage struggles to find a suitable cinematic style.

 
Making Noise Quietly

Deborah Findlay

 

An opening credit tell us that this film will be comprised of ‘Three Conversations’. That is a wise move since this screen version of a play by Robert Holman dating from 1986 is a portmanteau piece with three distinct sections unrelated to one another so far as characters are concerned. Each of them has its own title and declared location (‘Being Friends’, Kent, 1944; ‘Lost’, Redcar, 1982; ‘Making Noise Quietly’, The Black Forest, 1996), but from press material I had gathered that these three vignettes were linked in depicting the impact of war on ordinary people.

 

Indeed, it is the case that each episode at some point incorporates references to war, but it is hardly a factor that defines what they appear to be about. Take the first piece: here a conscientious objector, Oliver (Luke Thompson) goes on an afternoon walk with a stranger, a young novelist named Eric (Matthew Tennyson). It may take the war for Oliver’s pacifist beliefs to brand him an outsider, but that merely counts as a reason for Eric to see himself as a fellow outsider and thus to open up to Oliver about being homosexual. Yet this frankness feels distinctly unlikely given that this takes place in 1944. The second segment finds a naval officer (Geoffrey Streatfeild) informing a mother (Barbara Marten) of the death of her son: he may have died in the Falklands War, but this is really about the bond that still binds parents to a grown child even if he has moved away and kept his distance: little except the last line would change had the death been unconnected with war.

 

The film is the debut feature by theatre director Dominic Dromgoole, but his inexperience in this field is sadly evident even if he does make good use of exterior locations in two of the episodes and has a piano score by Stephen Warbeck to set the mood (most unusually the composer appears on screen at intervals as an unidentified man playing a piano in a deserted Sussex barn). Even with a different director, it would be evident that much of the dialogue retains its theatrical flavour, but Dromgoole makes matters worse by handling his cast so as to spotlight their individual words at the expense of the scene as a whole: if that adds to the sense of artificiality, it is no help either when he tries to do things only possible on screen. This finds him offering a conversation photographed for no good reason in long shot or suddenly interrupting another one to show the speakers from behind. When it comes to ‘Lost’ one questions too the use of the ‘Scope format since this is an interior piece which really calls out for the close intimacy of television (it may feature more than one character but it makes one hanker for an approach akin to that taken in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads series).

 

In the event it is only with the title piece that one can feel that the players (Deborah Findlay, Trystan Gravelle and child actor Orton O’Brien) are being presented in a way that makes their performances seem gauged to the medium. Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t help much. The tale told here concerns an ex-soldier traumatised in the Iraq War and his autistic stepson and shows the latter, who refuses to speak, being brought into line by a tough miracle worker in the form of a German Jewess herself marked by her young days in a concentration camp. It all seems too unlikely by far to carry any weight. This three-part piece is certainly an offbeat offering but never one that thrives in its new medium.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Matthew Tennyson, Luke Thompson, James Lailey, Paul Rider, Barbara Marten, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Deborah Findlay, Trystan Gravelle, Orton O'Brien, Stephen Warbeck.

 

Dir Dominic Dromgoole, Pro Alexandra Breede and Jacob Thomas, Screenplay Nick Drake, Robert Holman and Mark Rosenblatt, from a play by Robert Holman, Ph Nick Cooke, Pro Des Damien Creagh, Ed Ricardo Saraiva, Music Stephen Warbeck, Costumes Jonathan Fensom.

 

Open Palm Films-Verve Pictures.
95 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 19 July 2019. Cert. 15.