From the Editor’s Perch…

The Camera Follows a Thai Boy on a River Ferry

Cinema: Where Quiet Shows Its Muscle

Some years ago I attended a retirement party for a friend of ours where I was seated around one of a number of large round tables.  Partway through the proceedings, I happened to think of something and made a joke of it to the woman sitting next to me.  It got me a small laugh.  What was remarkable was that in the next moment, the fellow directly across from me (who was a loud and hale sales type) repeated the same witticism to loud and generous laughter all around the table.  Then he gave me a look.  I don’t know whether it was because he was curious as to why I didn’t laugh at ‘his’ joke; or because he had just taught me a lesson. 

For most of the years I wrote for the theater as a playwright one question most bothered me.  It seemed that the same people who claimed the stage in life, where also the characters to claim the stage in the theater.  I struggled to find a way to write about people and situations which weren’t always ‘selling’ themselves.  What was the point, I thought, in allowing the same characters who dominate us in society to dominate us under the footlights – all over again?

I studied sales, and I sold.  I studied plays, and I wrote plays.  I studied actors, and I tried a little acting…  I even toyed with the notion of starting my own troupe called, The Quiet Theater.  Whose purpose would be to promote the quiet moment, onstage.   I imagined holding festivals and giving our a prize for creating the longest, sustained quiet onstage in a successful performance.  I kept at this for quite some time – not because I had any success – but because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to turn.  Until finally I’d decided that the role of art is to celebrate life, and like it or not, this was the life that the theater celebrated.

Then I decided to try my hand at directing short films and almost immediately realized the opportunity to depict quiet.  Because, in film, the audience’s attention is placed wherever the director chooses to place it.  And, if the director should choose to ignore the loud fellow stage front… or across the table…  Well, that loud fellow can bellow all he wants, but the audience is going to watch whatever the camera has been directed to follow.  And they will hear whatever the audio speakers most want them to hear.  Whether, or not, the film will proceed to hold their attention is another problem.  But it occurred to me that cinema is where the quiet finally shows its muscle.  And perhaps in this frenetic, sales-driven age, this accounts a bit for cinemas increasing popularity at a time when the theater is fast losing its audience.  We all crave quiet – and it’s more than heavenly to be entertained by it.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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