A Quiet Place: The sounds of silence

Jul 26, 2018

A Quiet Place: The sounds of silence

A Quiet Place is set in a world where a single sound can be the difference between life and death. The film’s clever use of silence wowed audiences when it was released earlier this year, and proved that when it comes to creating atmosphere and tension, less can be more. If you missed this 2018 hit while it was in theatres, you can now grab it on DVD. But let’s take a look at how the use – and lack – of sound made A Quiet Place one of the most unique and talked-about films of the year.

The story follows the journey of a single family as they navigate a post-apocalyptic Earth. Now dominated by a vicious alien species that attacks any loud disturbances, they must manoeuvre in silence and stillness if they have any hope of surviving. What results is a film experience with very little spoken dialogue, a subtle soundtrack, and long stretches of tense silence. Normally, the near-overwhelming sound system of a movie theatre acts as a security blanket, allowing viewers to relax and detach by the larger than life sensory experience. The floor trembles with each explosion, booming voices fill the air, and a professionally scored soundtrack carries us from scene to scene. Not so in A Quiet Place. The lack of sound pulls viewers into the lives of the Abbott family as they operate in a different kind of world. The extended periods of silence turn the audience into participants, willing them to stay quiet and making any little sound feel like they’re somehow betraying the family’s cover.

Just like painters and photographers who use negative visual space in creative ways, Audio experts harness everything in their tool box. A Quiet Place’s sound designers Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl controlled the mood and pace of the film with silence. “By subtracting the sound — finding how quiet we could get – it creates a much more unsettling experience because audiences just aren’t used to that. In real life, the world is noisy and full of sonic stimulus. There’s hardly a quiet place in the world anymore that you can go to.”[1]

While there is an unnerving quality to sitting in a massive room with a large, silent crowd, a home viewing experience can be superior. So with A Quiet Place now out on DVD, we asked our expert producers and technicians how best to replicate the magic of the movie in your own home theatre. To ensure you make the most out of your 1.5 hour evening of entertainment, they recommend you’ll definitely need to do a little bit more work than usual. Control your environment by eliminating the distractions of noisy eaters and kicking out those incessant talkers. Make all your snacks of the quiet variety – marshmallows, gummy sweets and soft cookies, with not a hint of crunch. Wait until dark to watch the movie, or draw your blackout curtains tight. Put away any electronic distractions, preferably in another room entirely. Essentially, to truly enjoy this film at home, try to make your acoustic environment as insulated as possible. And for the truly brave, consider watching with your best pair of headphones.

And whatever you do, keep quiet.