The Silence of God
Jan 19, 2024
*no cast credited*
In filmmaking, what do we consider provocative? - and is being provocative an inherently admirable trait? The Silence of God (2019) may very well elicit questions such as these in the mind of a viewer. Experimental cinema occupies an undeniably niche but special corner of the artistic world; however, can a film so esoteric and disturbing ever find a more commercial audience outside of devoted avant-garde enthusiasts?
One hopes so, but this piece may prove too disturbing for anyone unacquainted with a particular brand of Lynchian moviemaking. It’s a distressing watch to say the least, not just in terms of its content / imagery, but also because of the disorienting, low-res, almost home-video aesthetic it’s shot with -- I was reminded of the incredible Inland Empire (2006). Polarising is too light a word to describe a kind of surrealist stimuli – it's challenging, near impossible, to engage with The Silence of God on anything other than the most abstract level of interpretation, and yet it also falls into an unfortunate architype of what experimental films often tend to be...
Filled to the brim with explicit visual and auditory metaphors edited erratically (a staple of the genre), the audience is presented with dizzying POV shots from under blood-tinged water, people in white masks digging graves, religious imagery and time-lapses (forwards and backwards) of a growing sunflower. It’s incredibly difficult to judge a film like this using any conventional scale of quality, but sometimes one of the best ways to approach the task is to consider whether there can be an emotional translation, a purely subconscious or even sensory effect that can be identified, and often it comes down to asking... Is it stimulating? Is it provocative? Is that a good thing? Most likely, the answers will fluctuate dramatically from person to person.
Despite being formless and non-linear in almost every way, themes can be identified: aggression; powerlessness; the juxtaposition of birth and death; growth and decay; the oppressive nature of a society; the idea of an anonymous, omnipotent force or structure being in control of your life. - All these things are present and it’s important to meet work like this is the middle, acknowledging that the experiment is effective at posing an unnerving portrait of those concepts – whether it speaks to you or not is an entirely different matter.
Unfiltered creativity is something to be encouraged and celebrated. For this reason, it could be argued that The Silence of God is a fully successful exercise. On the other hand, there is an ugliness to the aesthetic (purposeful or otherwise) which prevents the standard spectator from engaging with the experience even on a purely visual level – however it appears to be an active decision on the filmmakers’ part, as if to say, “engage with the work as intended, or not at all”. In urging the viewer to reevaluate certain critical faculties, they leave their comfort zones behind. It’s not simply that the work is ambitious: we, in turn, must be ambitious in our engagement, and that proves to be a valuable, unusual thing.