Filmmakers tend to prioritize dialogue as the main way to convey a message. So, what happens when there is little to no speech in a movie?
Have you ever thought about how much we rely on our senses? You probably have, and many writers and creatives have as well, to the point that this has become the premise of some of the most impressive movies in recent years. Most recently, we’ve seen the craze over John Krasinski’s directorial debut, A Quiet Place. Many have called it one of the best horror films in the last few years mainly because of the nerve-racking atmosphere the movie builds by the very simple premise of sound = get killed. Yes, this might be a perfect idea to create a terrifying horror movie, but actually, I’d say that not having any dialogue, or even very little narration can also be quite hard to watch, and for that reason many filmmakers have made the lack of dialogue a strong statement in their stories. If you loved A Quiet Place, or are anxiously waiting to watch it, there are other movies that are practically silent movies that every film buff loves.
Hush (2016) Dir. Mike Flanagan
Starting with a movie from the horror genre, we have this movie that follows the story of Maddie, a deaf-mute woman stalked by a masked killer. After her friend and neighbor are brutally killed (since Maddie wasn’t able to hear them knocking on her door), the killer realizes that she has a hearing impairment and decides to make her his next victim. Besides the stressful and scary silence that reigning over the film, the unsteady camera shots make you feel trapped in a horrifying and deadly maze.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) Dir. Kim Ki-Duk
Leaving horror aside for while, let’s take a look at what’s considered one of the most beautiful films ever made. By dividing his life to match the four seasons, we get to see the journey of a man from childhood to old age. What makes of this movie especially touching is how this South Korean filmmaker introduces a set of metaphors to illustrate the cyclical nature of life and death, but more importantly, how it sheds light on ideas of devotion and sacrifice through the experiences this monk goes through.
Los Muertos (2004) Dir. Lisandro Alonso
Part of a trilogy called the “Lonely Man Trilogy,” Los Muertos tells the story of Vargas, an ex-con who, after being released from prison after serving a sentence for the murder of his two siblings, wants to find his daughter who is an adult now. To reach her, he has to go to a remote town in rural Argentina that can only be accessed by crossing a big lake. Through this very abstract journey, Vargas will have to face his inner demons and analyze his life before actually reuniting with his daughter and past.
Elephant (2003) Dir. Gus Van Sant
Sadly quite relevant nowadays, inspired by the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, Elephant makes us experience the shooting that takes place in a fictional school in Oregon. We follow Alex and Eric, who, for reasons unknown, decide to blow up their school with bombs. When their plan fails, they enter with guns and start shooting at everybody in their way. This highly controversial film (that some say has served as inspiration for real shootings) was awarded three of the most important awards at the Cannes film festival, including the Palme d'Or.
Corn Island (2014) Dir. Giorgi Ovashvili
After a strong spring storm right in the middle of the river that divides Georgia from Abkhazia, a small island has been formed. With the help of his orphaned granddaughter, a farmer decides to build a small hut and grow some corn in this highly fertile miracle land. Not caring about the conflicts between both territories, this man creates his own country with his own rules and hopes to witness from a distance the horrors of war. But for how long will this gift from nature exist?
The Tribe (2014) Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
This crude and violent story follows Sergey, a deaf teen boy who goes to a boarding school for deaf people in Ukraine. The movie, which is spoken in sign language entirely with no subtitles, creates a film language in which images say much more than words. After being for a while in this school, Sergey joins a gang of criminals and becomes the leader after rising through the ranks.
These movies show how a good story can move audiences using only silence. Words and voices aren’t that necessary when you have a set of images and expressions to build a whole story. Though challenging to watch, since we’re used to people talking to us on the screen, they have a more metaphorical and deep meaning than most of the movies released in mainstream cinema.
Here are more movies you might like: