The Amplification of Silence

The Artist, a film directed by Micheal Hazanavicius, is brilliant.

It’s a brave film in that it flies in the face of convention, it’s beautifully directed and tells an engaging story. But it does so without any dialogue. Even the musical numbers are mute and we never actually hear the voice of Peggy Miller, the young starlet whose career takes off in the ‘talkies’ as an entertainer. We never hear the flirtatious chat between her and George Valentin, the Douglas Fairbanks look-alike leading man because it doesn’t exist – other than in a few inter-title boards.

And the film has even more impact because all the bright colourful glitzy backgrounds depicted in the film are in black and white.

The absence of sound and colour leaves room for our imagination to make connections that make the experience so much compelling. Like walking at nighttime in a forest, our senses become alert to much more. The subtle (and not so subtle) references to old films (Singing in the Rain, Citizen Kane and Hitchcock’s Vertigo), comedic homages to Chaplin and a charming scene where Peggy slips her arm into Valentin’s jacket and caresses herself which I first saw in Slava’s Snow Show are playful and help to convey a cinematic richness that means you don’t miss the absence of ‘glorious technicolour’.

It’s a great lesson for us. Creatively we strive for ‘less is more’ but rarely achieve it. Yet neurologists have proved we are more receptive emotionally than rationally. By shutting down one channel of information and encouraging our audiences to engage with simple, yet powerful feelings about brands, rather than telling them what to think we will create more impact and messages that stay in their minds far longer.

What’s really interesting about The Artist is how clearly I felt every nuance of the character’s conversations and can still remember them despite the fact no words were ever spoken.

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