She gazes at the ceiling. The fan blades whirr. The sounds dart. There’s both stillness and movement. Silence and sound. And in the next fifteen minutes, the world of noise becomes a world of quiet contemplation, explored through a deaf protagonist, in Kelzang Dorji’s conceptual artwork – A Song of Silence.
It reminds me of dreams. The way a dream will haunt you long after you’ve woken up, together with the plot. And the search for some meaning. A synthesis. No matter how convoluted. No matter how tedious. After the dissolution of the world of dreams, the waking one has to have a purpose. Or so we think. Which as it turns out is always defeated by the sheer labor and effort put into what we consider a daily morning ritual. And this is for those aware of the dreamlike fabric of both the world of dreams, and the seemingly real world of sights, sounds and touch.
For those who are not, the difference is the same as night is to day. Where the revelation from the sages comes into a play, with bewildering surprise: that the eyes don’t really see anything, or the tongue taste, the nose smell. The hands touch. Or the ears hear. If you think it does, the question is who’s doing it in the dreams? And by the same token, who’s doing it in life?
The power of imagination, and its subjective projection, is the objective thing that comes to life.
A Song of Silence is a short little delightful film that plays on, and delves into, such a world. But don’t let the length fool you. It’s intentionally designed. It’s audible poetry, in motion, drawn from an inaudible source. The deafness of the only human character in the film, essayed with verve and feeling by the lithe Lexin Choden, is the bridge that both holds, draws and singularly shows these parallel worlds. It’s a meeting of meditation and action; motion and emotion, deftly executed, and caught on film.
The film’s expression, then, of a mercurial reality is far more meaningful, and coherent, than any grand objective meaning. After all, a river is a river precisely because a river rivers. From its head up on the mountains to its mouth in the seas, the river is an expression of itself.
A Song of Silence presents and peels off its layers of multitudes using poetry, the elements, and a character without a support cast, without dialog, to create this telling ballad, a touching ode to whatever makes silence musical and meaningful, and life, beautiful and flawded.
And it manages to do the artful without being drawn into that rather sorry trap of arty preachiness, righteousness, superiority and/or hintful-conversion. The film wants to portray its own idea of stillness and movement; the juxtaposition between quiet sound and intermittent noise; and of the interplay of the fundamentally elemental in six-two minute episodes, and in directing that, never blurs from its vision of oneness. The continuity is unstretched, and unlaboured. Each episode follows the other, naturally, and there’s a certain organic release to the whole process.
The visuals are minimal, but enhancing. The editing tight – to the point, and the music, telling. And in Lexin Choden’s subtle representation, not only is there a sense of natural restrain and timely refrain, there’s hardly a hint of any acting.
Although Bhutanese cinema is still ruled and marred by the mainstream, there’s an inspiring band of independent filmmakers, with the leading torchbearer in Khyentse Norbu, and others in the same ilk in Tashi Gyeltshen, Dechen Roder and Karma Sonam Wangchuk.
It seems then, the future of thoughtful cinema in Bhutan, is quite present. It’s now upto the thinking audience.
*On an off-note, I do wish the film’s closing track could be subtitled, a sublime note that threads and makes the film emote on so many levels. The film was shot around the locales of Thimphu, with funding and contributions from friends and family.
A Song of Silence
Music-Tashi Gyalpo, Darpan Tamang, Himal Giri