Silence is Golden

By Justin Thirstrup

Pastoral Associate for Outreach

I do not normally watch awards shows, but this year, I did watch the 84th Academy Awards with some interest.  I was waiting to see which film would win the Oscar for Best Picture, and much to my delight, that award went to The Artist.

If you have not yet seen The Artist, I would highly recommend it!  I do not want to give away too many details about the plot, but the story line follows the life of a famous silent film star during Hollywood’s transition to talking pictures.  It is a silent, black and white film without any dialogue.  Occasionally, there are subtitles that help to convey what the actors are saying, but I think one of the really beautiful things about this movie is the way the actors are able to express their thoughts without the need for any words—be they written or spoken.  Facial expressions and body language play a major role in this film.  It is quite incredible how you can just look at the actors’ faces and know exactly what they are feeling.  The film’s soundtrack also helps to add to the experience.  Some really beautiful music helps to set the mood and adds to the emotion of the picture.

I loved The Artist for a number of different reasons.  First, the cinematography was stunningly beautiful.  I have not seen a movie filmed so well in such a long time.  Second, I was thoroughly impressed by the performance of the actors.  Each one of them is an artist in their own right for the way they were able to give their characters such life without ever uttering a single word.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I found this film to have an underlying lesson that is so applicable to our world today.

Who would have ever guessed that in the year 2012, a silent film would win the Oscar for Best Picture?  1929 was the last year that a silent movie won the Oscar.  This was also the year of the 1st Academy Awards ceremony, and the only other time a silent film has taken the honor.  Talking pictures have stolen the show for the last eighty-plus years, so the success of The Artist is both significant and historic.

Logically speaking, I would have thought The Artist was going to be a failure.  Why?  Because our society seems to hate silence.  Televisions, computers, radios, and iPods constantly surround us with noise.  Mobile phones have only added to the cacophony, as it seems like some people never turn these devices off.  If someone is not talking, they are probably texting, or using smart technology to explore the Internet.

Now, I am not against mobile phones or modern technology.  I just think people are too connected these days.  Instead of taking the time to visit face to face, technology has encouraged us to send short, impersonal messages back and forth via text.  Social skills are being lost on our generation, and people do not know how to have a good conversation anymore.

How often do we take the time to simply be with another person?  Are we able to be fully attentive to their needs?  More often than not, a person’s body language will convey more than their words.  Do we pay attention to that?  In our society, with all of its noise and chaos, I think there are a number of people longing to be listened to.

Perhaps that is why The Artist has won so much praise.  This film demonstrates the importance of listening.  One must get beyond the noise to truly “listen” to some characters who never utter a single word.  I found that lesson to be rather moving, and I hope it is one that we can all apply to our daily lives.  We might hear, but do we truly take the time to listen?  Let’s work on it…