‘Silent’ is an interesting take on contrast: even its title is situated in opposition with its dialogue-heavy structure, the subject of which however has to stay quiet. Most of the short film’s central themes and motifs evoke contrasts of different kinds and between a large variety of principles. During the approximately 20 minutes of runtime, the production doesn’t present a story per se, but rather focuses on dialogue as it delves deep into the intimate relationship between two actors, Carter and William, and underlines their inability to maintain it outside the privacy of their own four walls.
The main array of contrasts is established between the two characters: one an already famous and respected actor in his very peak, the other very much a rookie, one with great potential, but who still has a long way to go to familiarize himself with the manner in which things work in the actual world. This is exactly why Carter is not so eager to leave the comfort and familiarity of his artificially-constructed fantasy world within the hotel room where he makes love to William, whereas the latter uses it more as a means of escape from the artificially constructed real world, albeit a very sincere and heartfelt escape. A nicely utilized technique emphasizes this situation: the screen splits in two by the end, one-half for each character and their separate journeys to the reception – stairs vs elevator – as well as the completely different reception strengthen the two distinct realities.
William is the cynical, experienced character who has learned to accept reality for what it is, engaging into a well-constructed role-play system in order to make the best out of the status quo and achieving both interior and external goals. In stark contrast, Carter is the young, naïve, inexperienced but bright young man, who has not yet learned to care about consequences and feels hostile towards the way society works, and their inability to accept him for who he is. While the fact that the characters are gay is central to their respective context, their struggles are also generalizable beyond sexuality.
‘Silent’ also presents a distinct way of looking at the time, and how the passing of it shapes hopes, expectations, and possibilities. The word ‘always’ comes off as a recurring theme, which indicates the assurance of promise for the future (“There’ll be another picture, there always is”), but instead oozing uncertainty. The ambiguity of the future differs from the certainty of the present moment, the now, represented by the clock.
An interesting touch is represented by the timelessness of the plot: since for the most part, William and Carter find themselves naked in a neutrally decorated hotel room, the setting might as well be last century or the present day. Only when the two start dressing in period-specific clothes, and ‘Bye-Bye Blackbird’ starts playing in the background does the audience find out the actual time period in which the events occur. This uncertainty and generalizability ultimately show how little has changed in how societal themes such as this are perceived.
‘Silent’ is a solid production which is carefully designed and showcases a number of subtle, less obvious elements. Some minor problems with sound localization plague it throughout its duration, but the bigger issue here is that it is ultimately too static and too rich in filler content. While the two characters’ opposing philosophies on life are interesting to behold, they bring little new or surprising discourses, while the action and relationship itself is slightly banal and a bit stereotypical. ‘Silent’ has plenty of merits, however, and is ultimately an interesting film.