TIFF15 REVIEW: Quiet Zone [2015]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Canada)
Studio: National Film Board of Canada
Director(s): David Bryant & Karl Lemieux
Writer(s): David Bryant & Karl Lemieux

“These are the thoughts that we grow up with”

This is the type of experimental movie I can get behind because it doesn’t specifically hinge on form and form alone. What David Bryant and Karl Lemieux have done is distort their film with contextual purpose (not that others don’t, it’s just not merely abstract here). The over-exposed fields and darkened waves of burned celluloid trap us inside the head of Ondes et silence’s [Quiet Zone] narrators Nicols Fox and Katherine Peacock. Both women suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity—think Michael McKean‘s character on “Better Call Saul”—where the power of electromagnetic fields literally makes them ill. As Katherine states at the beginning, she believed the sound of airplanes in youth was the sun moving through the sky. And Nichols: she had to leave her house of twenty-two years once a neighbor installed wifi next-door.

Their tales are descriptive, but those of us who don’t know first-hand what they’re going through on a daily basis would still be lost without Bryant and Lemieux’s aesthetic choice to visually recreate the experience. Bright yellows and reds permeate the frame until we cannot make out exactly what we’re looking at; high contrast black and white create shadowy figures amidst lost imagery outlined in the dark. Coupled with the dull drone of white noise and buzz of electronics, you feel warmer and uncomfortable. Everything in front of us slowly and imperceptibly burning from invisible radiation becomes magnified as though underneath a microscope. The danger surrounding us is suddenly unavoidable, creeping ever so close to consume. It’s so unhinged that even sprocket holes make an appearance from time to time.

So while it conjures thoughts of experimental artists utilizing rotoscoping effects or treated film—as it should—Quiet Zone is literal catharsis for our empathy along with being a formal one. We not only feel something on a base level of beauty and emotion, but also towards the plight of two souls we’d be quick to dismiss as crackpots or hypochondriacs. On the contrary, this syndrome is legitimate and we all experience it on an infinitely smaller scale. Nicols and Katherine simply endure it on a level those like you and me would compare to sensory depravation torture. They live in a world where it’s impossible to escape this electromagnetic pull. Even in the titular “quiet zone” advertised as “radio silent” pulsates to make their skin crawl as yours does watching through their eyes.

courtesy of TIFF

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  1. […] to reviewer, Jared Mobarak, “Their tales are descriptive, but those of us who don’t know first-hand what they’re […]

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