Martin Scorsese – The Art of Silence

Martin Scorsese is known for many signature directorial devices, utilised throughout his films. Whether it be long single take tracking shots, characters breaking the fourth wall to deliver dialogue or his incredible use of popular music to score key moments, Scorsese has a raft of techniques that make him the icon he is.

However, what’s often overlooked (or shall we say less spoken about) is his great use of silence. Silence is a bold dramatic device and is often used to create a sudden sonic shift either for the purposes of unease or just to grab audience attention. It’s been remarked by critics (and agreed upon by me) that the film which utilises silence best is The Exorcist; for the very reason that cutting between cacophonous noise and sheer dead sound is eerie and unnerving. But Scorsese takes these same techniques, as applied by horror masters such as William Friedkin, and applies them to nuanced dramatic scenes – sometimes subtle and other times more obvious.

This mastery of the technique has been wonderfully articulated and realised by Tony Zhou; a Vimeo user who has posted a number of wonderful video essays about film, and who most recently has given a brilliant look at the silence of Scorsese. Enjoy.

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

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