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The Quietest Sound

James Vculek’s The Quietest Sound is a breath of fresh air for anyone sick of Hollywood’s unquenchable thirst for big-budget blockbusters filled with sloppily-filmed action sequences and lots of CGI explosions.

The film, which came out in 2006, stars Catherine Johnson as a mother whose daughter has gone missing. She’s being interviewed by two detectives, played by Chris Carlson and Michael Tezla. The film is shot as a single take, which lasts 75 minutes.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The story is the detectives are recording the interview, and they have to keep the tape rolling for evidence purposes. So there are no cuts, no camera moves and no score during the full running time of the film. The screenshot above should give you a pretty good clue of  what to expect in terms of visuals – the mother onscreen while two mostly unseen detectives question her in exhaustive detail about events leading up to her daughter’s disappearance.

A movie like this needs only two things to work: good acting and a good script. It succeeds fairly well on both counts. The script is a tad clunky at times but Johnson does a solid job delivering the bulk of the material. Carlson and Tezla’s good cop/bad cop routine keeps things interesting. It’s not the best acting you’ll ever see but it gets the job done for an indie.

There isn’t much else to talk about without getting into details. In the end, this is a welcome relief from the increasingly visuals-driven nature of most theatrical releases these days. With a slightly tighter script, it could’ve really been something great, but as it stands, The Quietest Sound is still worth a look.

Notes: I’m honestly not sure how I became aware of this film. I think I might’ve heard it mentioned on a movie podcast a few years ago. I never watched it, but it just kept popping into my head from time to time. I’ve always been fascinated by movies with long takes, and this is certainly up there with the longest. If you’re interested in watching the film, you can check it out at IndieFlix.com, where it costs $4.95 to stream. To my knowledge, this is about the only place you’ll find it.

For a brief discussion of my biggest issue with the movie and some thoughts about the ending, highlight the text below.

My biggest problem with the film comes at the very end. The script goes to great pains to establish why the camera is where it is, and why it can’t be turned off, and so on. But to get that final look at the TV screen, we have to do a weird, awkward pan/zoom. Who’s controlling the camera? It just kind of breaks the logic of the world.

The ending itself leaves me with questions too, but I assume that’s the point. The implication seems to be that the daughter really was taken by a kidnapper, and the disturbed mother imagined herself having drowned her daughter in the tub. But if that’s right wouldn’t the lab techs who analyzed the tape have told the detectives about the daughter leaving the store with someone else? There’s probably a coherent narrative in there somewhere but the details of it all seem a bit rushed.

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