Absence’s presence

Two weekends ago, Stephanie and I were both really sick – and it was raining like mad – so we called the video store and asked them to bring over a DVD. Yes, you can hem and haw all you want about the wonderfulness of Netflix and streaming video and OnDemand. But when the Indian postal service is slow and your Internet bandwidth sucks, those just don’t cut it. Thank goodness for MovieLand.

Steph hadn’t seen No Country for Old Men, so I persuaded her to get it. I love the film.

Seen the movie? If so, ask yourself: what’s missing? There are probably a bunch of different answers to this (e.g., a happy ending, a better haircut for Javier Bardem, etc.)

But to me, the answer’s clear: there is no music in the movie. Zero.

And by its absence, the lack of music makes its presence known. There are no cues – scary music means get scared! The movie just is. The actors speak, the sound effects are there…but there is a lot of silence, and it gives the whole movie a much more realistic bent – even though it’s a wildly unrealistic script. Next time you watch NCFOM, listen – there really is no music.

I am so programmed to take sensory cues – in life, watching TV, whatever. But think about the last time you watched a TV show or movie that had no soundtrack whatsoever. Can you think of even one? The lack of music is one reason why No Country for Old Men is so effectively creepy, in my opinion.

So absence has a presence. I am often trying to avoid absence – I work to fill my day, absorbing lots of information all the time. But by doing so, I minimize the silences, the absences, the fills. As a consequence, what am I missing?


About Rob

Twitter @robertkatz
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One Response to Absence’s presence

  1. Amrit Pal says:

    As Nassim Nicholas Taleb sums up in his classic, “Fooled by Randomness”, Aut tace aut loquere meliora silencio (only when the words outperform silence).
    It is the beauty of understatement, isn’t it? So easy to get trapped in the noise of opinion, RSS feeds, blogs, tweets and music.
    Gaurav Mishra had a similar “epiphany(if you will)” about this and so nearly did I. Check out his off-consumption experiment. http://www.gauravonomics.com/blog/how-to-give-away-things-you-own-but-no-longer-need/

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