|Written by||Oliver Stangl|
|Published on||September 12, 2011|
The film starts with the classic Rock’n’Roll hit “Chantilly Lace” but before one can really get into the mood of dancing, a disturbing noise fades in and soon predominates. “What’s [...]
The film starts with the classic Rock’n’Roll hit “Chantilly Lace” but before one can really get into the mood of dancing, a disturbing noise fades in and soon predominates. “What’s this?”, the viewer might think. “I would rather enjoy the music and not listen to that horrible sound.” That’s what makes the opening of Jemma Ridley’s The Absence of Silence: Tinnitus so effective. Imagine you would have to live with that sound not for just a few seconds but day in, day out. Tinnitus can be defined as “perception of sound in the absence of any correspondent external sound (…) The noise may be heard in one ear, in both ears or in the middle of the head.” The film follows four people who suffer from the symptom (Tinnitus is not defined as a sickness per se) and who learned to cope with it. (The precise cause for Tinnitus is still not fully understood by the way, but experiences of Tinnitus are common in all age groups, especially following exposure to loud noise; ten percent of the population have it all the time.)
The documentary makes subtle use of the soundtrack, for example when civil servant Fiona describes what she hears as a “high-pitched ping” and that exact sound fades in. The film also combines image effect and sound effect, for example when Fiona describes the hissing in her ears as “white noise”. The image turns to white while hissing can be heard on the soundtrack. The images also are often out of focus, visualizing something that is there but can’t be grabbed – just like Tinnitus. At certain points the film suddenly becomes totally silent, breaching the viewer’s listening habit. One of the docs strongest images is a shot of fish in an aquarium. At first only gentle bubbling is audible but soon chatter and laughter takes over, getting louder and louder. At last, there is only white noise.
The doc makes clear that people who suffer from Tinnitus still can carry out their jobs – Iain is a drummer and Ricardo works as a musician and sound engineer. In the beginning, Ricardo was frantic: “You know it’s going to be there forever. In the beginning you get really desperate, there is no way to shut it down.” But Ricardo learned to focus on the positive effects: “It brought me some bad things and it brought me some good things. It made me stronger.” Tinnitus can cause stress, anger, anxiety and frustration; the film points out that when you suffer from something uncurable you have to arrange yourself with the situation. Says David, a professor of auditory neuroscience who researches the causes of Tinnitus: “Being a positive person certainly helps.”
Documentary.net says: An insightful, well made film that tries to give the viewer a comprehensible impression of Tinnitus through sound effects and visual compositions.