The Sound of Silence ★★

New York is one of the most iconic and picturesque cities in the world, but like any city, some people can find it too busy and noisy. Working as a house tuner, Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard), has dedicated himself to studying the sound patterns of The Big Apple on the streets and in people’s homes. Adapted from his short film, Palimpsest, writer-director Michael Tyburski explores how sound can impact our lives with his directorial debut The Sound of Silence.

TSOSAt the start of the film, the audience hears two men discussing the imbalance of sound within the apartment. The scene is dimly lit, like much of the film. At times, the lighting is tedious and frustrating, but the lack of lighting compels the audience to concentrate on the words and noises of the film’s emphasized dialogue and sound.

Peter meets Ellen Chasen (Rashida Jones), a client of his who experiences frequent fatigue (evident from the dark circles around her eyes). Peter analyses the sounds within her home to see if he can better her home’s sound conditions. Ellen is willing to let him help but appears uncertain that he can, and she is surprised when told that all she needs is a new toaster. Unfortunately, Peter’s advice to replace the appliance because it was not in tune with the apartment does not work. Peter attempts to assist Ellen further, resulting in the pair becoming interested in each other.

Sarsgaard’s has the perfect level of reservation in his performance. Peter’s calming presence and mellow tone of voice make him an intriguing character, so much so that the audience wonders how and why he became a house tuner. Ellen works as the audiences’ access to learn more about Peter, and Jones performs well opposite Sarsgaard.

Tyburski further epitomizes a good use of sound by using high pitched dissonant ringing to emphasize how Peter’s life starts to unhinge. However, when this happens in the final act, the film loses its way and begins to feel hurried, and the questions posed to the audience are nothing more than conventional. Peter believes that sound predetermines our path in life, whereas Ellen thinks we are free to make our own choices. The characters offer these concepts fleetingly, and their resolution towards each other’s conflicting ideas is weak.

It is pleasing to see Tyburski examine an essentially unexplored profession in a film and use sound to heighten storytelling in a stylized way. Unfortunately, this appealing style and premise do not support anything resembling poignant ideas. Despite an intriguing outlook, The Sound of Silence does not come off as a refreshing piece of cinema and sadly is inharmonious in effect.

Ian began working in film as one of the founding members of the Rochester Film Society, where he led the programming for films and curated screenings. Since moving into film criticism and writing for Cineccentric, he has provided coverage for various film festivals including London, Glasgow and the BFI Flare Film Festival. He is also the Communications Manager for the North East International Film Festival, where he helps acquire films. Ian particularly admires works from contemporary directors like Céline Sciamma, David Fincher, Steve McQueen and Nicolas Winding Refn.

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