An intimate triptych best consumed privately to allow for deep thought, emotional connection and transportation.
Dominic Dromgoole’s Making Noise Quietly begins with a man and piano, which is the glue that connects this 90 minute film together alongside war and obscurity. The film comprises ‘three conversations’, all consisting of breathtaking colour schemes, gentle cinematography and intelligent framing. Each story is told with an air of ambiguity, on occasion leaving too much room for viewer speculation that borders on confusion. However, this doesn’t prove to be a paramount issue, with all ‘conversations’ explained in enough depth to avoid significant bewilderment before moving onto the next.
‘Being Friends’ (Kent, 1944), the first of these three, opens with a stunning close up of Eric’s (Matthew Tennyson) eye. Revealed to be a homosexual who sketches churches for Vogue, Eric is unable to carry out war-duty due to a bicycle accident that resulted in a spinal injury and tuberculosis. Soon enough, Oliver (Luke Thompson) the farmer is introduced as they share an encounter in the local shop. Although both avoid participation in the war, Oliver’s beliefs as a conscientious objector bring about shame, as well as an understanding of Eric’s lifestyle choices – this is told against a background of a shared picnic in the Kent countryside. Despite Oliver’s self-labelled heterosexuality, the movie’s scenes and conversations leave this claim contradictory and dubious, with Eric calling him a “beautiful man”, and suggestive editing that quickly cuts to the pair’s hands reaching for a cherry. After the wartime reminder of 12 “doodlebug” bombers interrupting their picnic, this opening story ends with yet another contradictory scene of these new friends closely skinny dipping.
‘Lost’ (Redcar, 1982), the least captivating and shortest of the three conversations, lasts only 15 minutes and contains itself to just one room (only occasionally viewing life outside the window). May (Barbara Marten) is joined in her living room by her son Ian’s friend Geoffrey (Geoffrey Streatfeild) to discuss the death, navy career and life of Ian during the Falklands war. It transpires that May and her husband Jim have heard nothing about their son in the five years since his departure, leaving their love to turn into hatred as they question why he would wish to willingly participate in the war (his father being conscripted into the airforce during WWII). In a revelation that Ian was unknowingly married to Geoffrey’s sister, May encourages Geoffrey to share only the “good bits” about her son with Jim, twisting lies that even she becomes deluded with, and changing the tone of the conversation to one of pride and love as opposed to disappointment and hatred.
‘Making Noise Quietly’ (Black Forest, 1996) concludes this triple conversation piece and is granted the longest time of 45 minutes. By far the most structurally challenging and emotive of the three segments, this story demands a level of empathy and deliberation far greater than those before. The piano motif from the beginning is even more prominent within this story, as it changes tone to provide a horror-feel at points and is incorporated into the narrative as background music. It is as if the film was building up to this with various aspects aligning, as the story of Helene’s (Deborah Findley) horrific concentration camp experience is shared in conversation with Alan (Tristan Gravelle), father to Sam (Orton O’Brian). The warped pair are welcomed into Helene’s home following an introduction through Sam’s screams (his preferred method of communication). Shame, trauma, growth, challenge and pain encapsulate this tale – cigarettes and violence being the most prominent unspoken languages throughout.
Making Noise Quietly makes for great cinema, its innovative three-part narrative is something that should definitely be more widely explored in the world of film. Though not all the stories on display are as captivating as each other, none are dull to watch and all remain visually, if not narratively, engaging. Although this British film should certainly be added to your watch list, it is best appreciated in solitude, which allows for total transportation into each of these stories, feeling as though you witnessed them personally – an amazing and unique experience.
Making Noise Quietly, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, is distributed in the UK by Verve Pictures, certificate 15, and released in cinemas on 19th July 2019.