Written by: #MikeCarter
The way we see one another and communicate with one another has always been a peculiar social construct especially in the modern age of celebrity and media, where whole identities are built by observation and exaggeration. At first glance of the title, Tom Michael Blyth and Keif Gwinn want you to associate this film with those invasive television documentaries that operate more like carnival barkers than empathetic portraits of its subjects. Following two journalists preparing to interview the titular character, the interviewer seeing it as an opportunity to get ahead in their career, the other a cameraman pessimistic to why they are creating a story around this. In between their squabbles, various talking heads of the locals are played (from the segment the two have been producing) which fill the audience into the local legend of the man with his fingers in his ears.
The film is a little rough around the edges with its cinematography and sound design but this almost enhances the realism to the performances through the talking heads. While Carter’s script provides a baseline, most of the film is improvised by the cast creating an amazing verisimilitude to the film. Moments such as the performance of the story on the “origin” of how the man put his fingers in his ears is hilarious and each little Vox pop furthers the irony to the film’s messaging. The audience never sees its titular character, he never speaks for himself, his story is told by those around him but swayed by opinion and projection, locals bolstering for their own fifteen minutes. It’s an interesting examination on communication, this man has voluntarily isolated himself from his world, not listening or speaking to anyone yet this leads to everyone trying to put their logic onto his actions, surrounding him until he can’t be seen or heard for himself. The variety of ways that the talking heads place their meaning upon this lack of action is amusing and again just shows how no one is really listening to one another, just talking for the sake of it.
It’s all brilliantly executed and presented, subtle with its commentary but still hilarious, The Man with His Fingers in His Ears is brought to life by its lively performances. Gwinn’s editing of the piece balances the two perspectives well and gives each member of the ensemble a moment to shine, lending so much credibility to the reality of the film. What’s intriguing about the way Blyth and Gwinn tell this story is how nothing is achieved, the cameraman states how this is “all a stream of pointless nonsense and we should stop contributing to it”, this is all about this hopeless assignment trying to will meaning onto nothing. It’s nihilistic but fascinating in that the one who possibly has stopped contributing is the one who may have found a meaning to it all. Through all the waffle of the talking heads, you wonder who this man with his fingers in his ears actually is and what’s he thinking and can’t help but wonder if what you’re watching is the reason why he has removed himself.
An authentic portrayal of how inauthentic people and society can become, The Man with His Fingers in His Ears is a terrific satire with plenty of comedy and character that wisely focuses on the truly bizarre behaviour. Blyth and Gwinn keep the film skilful in its simplicity as performances and presentation deliver an intriguing vision, especially when considering our own isolations from the noise all around us.