Silent protagonists in CCC
Why nobody talks? Is it because they can't (natural causes, mental illness, language barrier, vow of silence...) or because they won't (alienation, asociability, incommunicability...)?
I thought there was more actual mute people but only a few use this excuse to justify the absence of dialogue (A Scene At The Sea, Oasis, The Arc...). Or maybe there is nobody around to talk to. After a quick survey there seems to be equal numbers of "can't" (mainly mental disorder or language barrier) and "won't" (mainly physical isolation and social shyness).
Often the auteurs manage a very Spartan environment for their protagonists, in such a way that isolates them in desertic areas or keep them apart from the rest of the community. There are many reasons to this mutism, sometimes an abstracted, "conceited" setting that render dialogue superfluous, but other times the silence is more uncomfortable because the interpersonal relation with other present characters doesn't take place as it normally should. CCC protagonists refuse to talk on purpose. They seem to exclude the world, or feel excluded by it.
Could we say that CCC auteurs are no longer interested in the role of words? They might be through with the constant babbling of classic (theatre-inherited) narration. Or is it our current society that had enough with the long overstated discourses, while mainstream cinema keeps feeding us with an ideal form of reality where every character gets a finely scripted punchlines to deliver at key moments. TV definitely has a passion for excessive verbalisation and a phobia for dead silences... for a contemplative pause. (This consideration is especially interesting vis-a-vis the ongoing writer's strike that brings Hollywood to its knees).
Reygadas sets his latest film in a remote rural region of Mexico, and to accentuate the alienation, they are a non-Spanish-speaking community (Mennonites) who count every word they speak, essentially devoted to spiritual meditation. The protagonists in his previous films were also exceptionally mutic, even within a less drastic environment.
Sokurov and Tsai opt for a foreign country too, a place where the language barrier comes in the way of basic exchanges with their neighbors and friends.
What is this strange discrepancy between a certain minimalistic trend in contemporary art-cinema, and the world of intense communication we live in? Even when the film takes place in dense urban areas, they seem to be awkwardly depopulated, or inhabited by people who lost any communication skills.
Continue reading : Fiant on contemporary mutic cinema