Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: In Pursuit of Silence

Our senses are bombarded on an daily basis. Walk around any city or large town and you’ll be assailed by loud noise; traffic, music, talking and much more. We’re increasingly plugged in to the technological era, often blanking out the background noise with personal media devices. Silence, which was traditionally revered and much sought-after, is becoming increasingly hard to find in our busy lives. However, silence could save your life.

Beginning with an ode to John Cage’s seminal piece 4’33, director Patrick Shen investigates the role of silence in modern life in his film In Pursuit of Silence. We’ve become so accustomed to noise that we’re unaware of the impact it can have on us, but noise pollution is one of the foremost environmental issues facing the world today. Unwanted sound can have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health, causing stress, sleep deprivation, hypertension and hearing loss amongst other disorders.

The main thrust of Shen’s documentary is that silence allows us to connect to the world around us. We’re not evolved to deal with loud noise and being exposed to it has a detrimental effect on our health. As someone who has fairly recently discovered the benefits of quiet, In Pursuit of Silence chimes strongly with me. It’s a beautifully made meditative experience, and despite a slightly grating occasional piano accompaniment, does a great job of promoting the benefits of a more tranquil existence.

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