BIFF Review: The Sound of Silence

Noise dictates so much of our lives, especially in the city. The Sound of Silence aims to answer the question of ‘what if this noise could be ordered in such a way that would create inner peace?’. This is the first feature film by writer-director Michael Tyburski and co-writer Ben Nabors, adapted from their 2013 short film, Palimpsest, and feels like a natural elaboration of the same ideas.

Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard) is a house tuner, hired by people to adjust the sound frequencies of their homes to finely tune them to the person’s emotional core. This all changes when he meets Ellen (Rashida Jones) and finds himself unable to figure out what is wrong with her apartment. It’s a really unique concept and while it can feel way too slow-paced for how predictable its overall story ends up being, its eccentric charm is totally brought front-and-centre by Sarsgaard in his performance. He’s so dry and clinical, bringing so many small nuances to his role that makes him just so calming to watch. The profession of a house tuner is entirely fictitious yet you can’t help but wish it wasn’t with the soothing pace and results Peter brings. Rashida Jones makes an excellent counter-balance for his role, reacting to his oddities and quirks much like how the audience would be, confused yet entranced. 

The heart of The Sound of Silence really is, well, the silence. Moments such as the calming white noise when Peter listens to the timbre of his tuning forks or even the delicate quiet in conversations between himself and Ellen are the parts that prove essential to the film. There are some uses of music here but its main focus is taking in this soundscape and finding this tranquility within it. Ahead of seeing this, I saw various people insist on a necessity to see this on a big screen but honestly, I feel it would come across even greater to watch in the comfort of your own home. It’s a thoroughly cozy movie to watch and hearing it in conjunction with the sounds of your own home would make it hit even harder. 

Though, if there was anything I had to fault the film for it would be the fairly bland style of presentation. While it does force greater attention towards the film’s performances and sound design, a movie with a concept as unique as this almost demands a visual style of more gravitas to do it justice. 

I didn’t particularly care for The Sound of Silence too much after immediately watching but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself appreciating what it set out to achieve. It’s something that leaves a larger impact meditating on it than it does actually seeing it. It really is more than the sum of all of its parts and one of those movies that just leaves you with this sense of warmth by the time it’s over.


Promotional image obtained from: Brisbane International Film Festival (2019), The Sound of Silence.
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Luka Katic
Luka Katic

Luka is a Brisbane-based (Meanjin) writer and filmmaker. He is currently in his final year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Film, Screen and New Media).

Articles: 14

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