Accelerating Culture

A Quiet Film or a Silent Film? How John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” Both Deprives and Stimulates the Senses

@karenzhaocn
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John Krasinski’s directorial debut A Quiet Place has been shocking the film industry and audiences alike since its release on April 3, 2018. It has since thrived in the box office and according to Variety, earned $50.3 million on opening weekend.

The horror film follows the Abbott family who is attempting to navigate and survive on an earth that had been overrun by blind, monster-like predators who prey on sound. The pervasive threat the Abbott family must manage leads them to live in almost complete silence, ever-fearing not only making noise, but also any sounds in their environment that would instantly lure the creatures to their location. Although aptly titled A Quiet Place, the lack of noise and dialogue in the film is still jarring to the audience, creating a connection between the viewers and the film unmatched by other horror movies.

One aspect that differentiates A Quiet Place from other films of its genre is the persistence of the silence throughout the film. In many horror films, music and sound effects are often used to fill silences in order to build suspense and stimulate the audience’s senses. However, in Krasinski’s film, these typical editing techniques are removed, therefore creating a compelling fusion of sensory deprivation and shocking sensory stimulation. The removal of major sounds forces the audience’s sense of hearing to be heightened, therefore intensifying the background noise and sounds of the environment in the movie. This creates a complex and creative task for sound editors Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl.

In an interview with CNET, Aadahl remarks that the removal of most sound from the film makes any sound “when it does arrive…100 times more impactful and powerful.” A new take on the silent film, Krasinski describes the movie as “a quiet film” in an interview with Tory Max. Instead of utilizing dramatic effects like many current popular movies, the producers deprive the audience of outright stimulation in order to increase attentiveness, therefore making the horror aspects as well as the social commentary, much more noticeable and poignant.

Of course, the characters in the film fear noise because of the threat to their lives, but the removal of most sound from the movie leads to a transfer of that fear of sound to the audience. Krasinski, Aadahl, and Van der Ryn have all remarked on the response by audiences to put away their movie snacks in order to avoid making noise, as if they too were going to be hunted for making any sound.

Although Krasinski describes the movie as one “about the extremes that you would go to to protect your kids,” the world in the film seems to exaggerate the unrecognized dangers present in reality, and how regular things in society – like sound – have grown into a grave threat. Similarly, the quietness of the film perhaps serves as a reminder for the importance of quiet and caution in chaotic times.

Through the removal of most sound and music and the implementation of startling silence and whispering throughout the film, Krasinski – with the help of Aadahl and Van der Ryn – creates a brilliantly impactful film that contrasts most other horror movies in the genre.

unsplash-logoKaren Zhao

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