The weight of silence in A Quiet Place

It’s oh. so. quiet.

Shh! Shh! But wait – even a “shh” is a noise. Best to practise stifled breathing, in the world of A Quiet Placefor John Krasinski‘s directoral debut has an originally novel take on suspense.

Set in a world of a never-quite-explained invasion, the Abbott family are some of incredibly few survivors. The majority of the human race have been wiped out by ravenous alien creatures, blind, swift and blessed with hypersensitive hearing that alerts them to potential prey lurking miles away. The sleepy hometown of the Abbotts is desolate and deserted, its inhabitants long devoured and its contents clumsily pillaged by the sightless creatures. The family have only survived this long by communicating silently via sign language. Their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf.

Such fluency is pivotal when even the soft chop of salad or the tap of Monopoly tokens are undertaken with utmost precision, whereas louder activities are presumably avoided altogether. Even footsteps on the earth are muffled by the avoidance of shoes, the sound dampened by sand. All sound is treated with suspicion, and rightly so.

There is an imminent and palpable fear at the prospect of everyday existing, whilst the prolonged silence of the film is the dizzying antithesis of a modern cinema experience. This ominous immersion transplants cinema-goers directly into the world of A Quiet Place, sparking a tense friction and that heart-in-the-mouth feeling that death is lurking with baited breath just outside of one’s periphery.

It is perhaps this that grounds the film emotionally. The endless threat of child harm or death, the sickeningly plausible body horror of pregnant mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) (and her saga with that damn nail) and a father’s (portrayed by Krasinski) quest to protect them from otherworldly danger are all plausible – if extrapolated – real-life worries. How can one be silent in mortal terror, anguish, childbirth or the unavoidably loud aftermath?

The bold use of amplified diegetic sound is undermined somewhat by Marco Beltrami’s score. In an interview with IGN, Krasinski stated that what he wanted to do was to “make sure that people had some familiarity with movies from before, so it didn’t feel like an experiment.”[1] With the way that A Quiet Place thrives on the tension derived from the paranoia of making any noise at all – a feeling that extended itself to cinemagoers too uncomfortable to dare munch on their popcorn – it would have been interesting to see a different edit where its creators had the courage to stick to only diegetic sound in its most emotive and stressful moments.

The crossing paths of humans and aliens is all but inevitable, but in their actions to avoid, overcome or outwit the mysterious creatures, we learn everything about the family and compare their choices with the ones we fantasise we may have made as people. In A Quiet Place, actions really do speak louder than words.

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