The Exhilarating Sound of Silence

“What do you like about being up here?” “The silence.”

gravity-space1

Almost two weeks ago, I ventured to the closest movie theater for an afternoon screening of Gravity. I was surprised and pleased to find that the theater was completely empty. Maybe it was because Gravity had been in theaters for several weeks or because I had chosen not to see it in 3D or that I was at a crappy AMC. Whatever the reason, I was totally alone. It was the ideal movie watching experience: huge theater, big screen, good movie, no distractions. For a movie like Gravity, this environment only intensifies the action scenes, the constant birth imagery, the beauty of Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, and the paralyzing silence.

Until Kowalski asks Stone what she likes about space, the silence in Gravity is unnoticeable, blending into the abyss that is outer space. Once becoming aware of it, this silence is exhilarating. It is also terrifying. The silence magnifies Stone’s dire circumstances. It is a reminder that she utterly alone and defenseless. And when sitting, alone in a dark, expansive movie theater, this silence is beyond overwhelming.

————

I’m not the most relaxed moviegoer. In fact, I absolutely hate the act of going to the movies. I find it cumbersome and I can never become fully engrossed by a film until well after it has started. Then a cell phone goes off or I can here the sound of people eating disgusting theater popcorn and I’m distracted from medium. So I prefer to go to the movies alone and now more than ever, I just avoid movie theaters all together.

I wasn’t always like this. One year, I went to the movies more than 40 times and I reveled in the excitement of seeing a movie. In 2009, I wrote an article for my college newspaper about the thrill of being a film spectator. How the act of sitting with strangers in a dark theater just before a movie starts is stirring and eerie. At this moment, a sense of excitement looms right before you are transported to an alternate reality and before expectations are met or dashed. It is the best time of any screening.

I used to always experience this thrill when going to the movies. That is why I loved the cinema and I don’t know what I caused this shift in my habits. Perhaps I should stop trying to rationalize why it has happened. Things constantly change.

Of course I still love going to the movies, even if I find the process exhausting. The timeless moment when the previews (finally) end and the movie starts is thrilling. There is nothing better when the universe aligns and a movie can deliver a phenomenal viewing experience.

In Gravity, the silence does just that. It pulls us out of the world we are accustomed to seeing in cinema and forces us to see a larger, mystifying picture

The silence is rousing.

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