Cinema has never been silent. Even in its earliest years, there were always whispers and coughs in the auditorium, the sounds of a raconteur, a piano or a full orchestra. Yet this presence of sound is precisely what offers the possibility to opt for silence.
Say No More is a poetic provocation, a hushed response to the constant overload of stimuli that surround us and overwhelm our senses. Whereas daily (festival) life is replete with debate and discussion, saturated with information alerts and social media nudges, this is a programme for a silent minority, an audience that is prepared to listen actively, that understands the importance of silence and concentration as an act of resistance against the perverse imperatives of the attention economy. How to bring this idea of empathy and quiet action back to the fore?
Say No More is not a programme that wants to eliminate all sounds from the projection theatre. But it does want to stimulate a reappraisal of a hushed, quiet attention for film, and in this way rediscover the compelling sensation of collective viewing, the notion of togetherness in silence while listening to one’s own inner voice. What unites these films is the paucity of human speech in each of them. The films in this programme do not spell out their message; they let the images speak for themselves and leave it up to the viewer to actively reach out and make contact with an image, instead of ‘obeying’ or passively undergoing it.
There is no voice-over and little or no verbal comment in films that describe in a purely visual way the transformation of a rural economy into a digital one (The Harvest), or the reverse engineering of lumber back to its tropical origins (Walden). The interpretative shift from mundane noises to the musical sounds practiced by musique concrète composers is put in historical perspective as a typical post-WWII phenomenon (La lucarne des rêves). The reduction of political rhetoric to brief soundbites is the first symptom of a looming catastrophe with all-encompassing consequences (In My Room).
Say No More thus raises questions on multiple levels among feature films, but also within a single compilation programme. As a colloquial expression, ‘say no more’ can signal that we don’t need any further input or information, but also that we resign ourselves to something as a fait accompli. Say : no more domestic silence deals with lingering silences in a household. There is no other person to talk to, or the occupant is no longer there, or speaking out might be harder than respecting an uncomfortable silence. Say : no more darkness suggests that being in conscious control limits our human capacities for perception and awareness. At the same time, it includes an invitation to leave the restrictions of an anthropocentric perspective behind and thus allow the rhythms of nature to step back in. Say : no more distances explores different ways of listening to the call of nature and how this can provide a model for communication without the use of words and all of its defining characteristics. Say : no more straight lines combines the purely experiential with thought experiments: Can we abandon what frames us? How can we deconstruct what feels most self-evident and create a space to rethink things?
Works on Paper
To introduce an attentiveness for collective listening from the moment of entering the screening room, the audience is handed a specially designed ‘score’ while music students from Codarts perform a short acoustic intervention. In this series of horizontal screenings – in the same room and at the same time every day – the Q&A sessions for Say No More will be conducted without a microphone as well, so that everyone in the room can speak and listen on the same level.
Say No More also includes an exhibition. In collaboration with gallery PrintRoom, Finnish artist Mika Taanila is presenting his Works on Paper, consisting of two series: an ultra-minimalist reduction of a film script in My Silence (On Paper) (2015) and a small library of brutally yet cleverly abused books on cinema, Film Reader (2017), which was initially presented at the Venice Biennale. In their own subversive way, these works also demonstrate how an image can speak louder than a thousand words.