In Pursuit of Silence

81 min. Cinema Guild. 2016. $99.95. ISBN 0781515564.
Gr 9 Up—This film considers silence and its importance to human life through interviews with theologians, authors, philosophers, doctors, scientists, naturalists, and monks. The documentary notes that there is truly no such thing as natural silence. What with wind, mechanical noises, and the sounds of humans or animals, there is almost always something to listen to. But the modern world is getting louder all the time, and that is not always a good thing. The filmmakers grab viewers' attention right out of the gate; there is no dialogue or voice-over for the first seven minutes, only soundscapes of nature and buildings and towns. This may be jarring to some viewers. The film presents research on how sounds affect humans: too much noise can raise blood pressure and lead to heart attacks and dementia. It can impair learning in schoolchildren and be harmful to patients in hospitals. When people sit in a peaceful, natural setting, without loud noise, there are measurable health benefits. The film is slow paced, allowing viewers to absorb the audio. It is thoughtful, lovely to look at, and unsurprisingly deliberate in its use of sound. It makes a strong case that silence is necessary to be happy, healthy, and human. Teachers could use a noise-level app to measure the sound in their classrooms as an interesting accompanying activity.
VERDICT This would be a good film for a science class studying the environment, noise pollution, or human biology.

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