Drama, 5 min
Log line: Inspired by a true story
Silence is the story of a love in ruins
Silence is a short black and white film from 2016 created by Hamish Downie, with actors Tomoko Hayakawa and Qyoko Kudo. It is loosely based on the director’s experience with an abusive partner. With a dark atmosphere, convincing performances and a strong use of music, this film had me peeled to the screen for its exactly 4 minutes and 51 seconds.
The narrative is simple: a woman tries to escape from her abusive partner. Being caught in the act, she needs to survive yet another night next to her abuser. The style itself, on the other hand, isn’t realistic but fragmented, making use of symbols, music and horror elements to add another layer to this story. The doll, key in a few closeups, stands for every child that has witnessed violence between their parents. The white mask represents the unseen disguises victims use to survive; the light at the end of the tunnel as a symbol of hope. The dance sequences in the solitary, discarded hall are short glimpses of relief… maybe? The setting itself is a visual metaphor for the confined world of the victim. The music, by the trans artist Thea Jane Riley, follows the narrative perfectly, amplifying the suspense, converting images into sound. The film was intended to be a music video for “The Last Time”, a song by Robyn Loau, but even with the change of score, the visual images and soundtrack complement each other well.
It is a brave thing to talk about abuse, especially when it hits so close to home as in the case of Hamish Downie. Trauma can rarely be put into words; therefore, I find the deliberate absence of words in the film to be powerful. We need more films like Silence to show how family violence affects all members of the LGBTQ community, in the words of the director. His choice of using a lesbian couple to translate onto screen his own experience, shows even further that abuse is universal, not in the sense that every experience is the same, but that it leaves scars, trauma, nightmares and demons behind. Yet in the face of it all, the victim shows a tremendous amount of courage in leaving the crippling relationship behind.
There is a rawness to this short film that without the use of words conveys the nerve-racking atmosphere of a toxic relationship. The desolate surroundings, the wide angles, the black and white contrast draw the viewer into this derelict ambience of a love story gone wrong. Set in an abandoned mining village in Japan, the setting mirrors the crumbling state of the characters’ relationship. The suffocating, claustrophobic, deafening feeling of being trapped by the very person who was supposed to protect you, to love you. Both characters, played by Tomoko Hayakawa (the victim) and Qyoko Kudo (the abuser), are portrayed with empathy, with a sort of sensibility, masterfully using their body language and facial expression to express what words cannot. Even Qyoko Kudo’s abuser seems not to be monster, but more of a lover who has lost her way.
Silence is the story of a love in ruins. To me, it felt like a concentrated dose of sad and ugly truth; the horror, almost expressionist elements sparked my interest. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is life after violence. However, I do believe it had the potential to be longer, to dive deeper into the story, and psychology of the characters. As a subject that is both sensitive and complex, 5 minutes seem to only touch the tip of the iceberg.
Watch the trailer
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