You learn pretty quickly how things work in A Quiet Place. Make a sound and you just may die of it.
For reasons left largely unexplained, the world has been overrun by creatures that quickly chase down anything making a sound and kill it. They are quick, powerful, seemingly indestructible, and completely without mercy. To survive in this world, one must be utterly silent, at nearly all times. A momentary lapse of discipline will bring a swift and cruel death.
The best part of this premise is that it reaches right through the screen and into the movie theater. Watching a family struggle to survive on screen in this world shaped by monsters, the audience itself struggles to maintain its own silence. It’s difficult. It’s especially difficult for a room full of people still settling into their seats and trying to enjoy their concessions. But we learn the cost of noise early in this film, and nobody wants to be the one who spoils the soundscape for the rest of us. The silence on screen demands silence from its audience. Every candy wrapper threatens to ruin the experience. Every sip from a soda pop threatens to bring the monsters pouncing. So, we all try to be quiet, and we fail miserably. The whole theater is filled with sound, and with people trying desperately not to make those sounds.
As we all adjust to the need for silence, the restlessness of the audience comes excruciating. The teenagers in the row beside me keep moving about in their seats. They are trying to hold still, but they just haven’t found a comfortable position yet, and the results are excruciating. The sound of a straw sliding through a plastic lid somewhere in the room echoes through the whole theater. We can all hear that straw push through the ice and into the corner of the cup. Lacking a straw, myself, I quickly come to realize how much the ice in my own cup shifts with every drink I take. Taking those final gulps, I feel almost as though I’ve betrayed the whole back section of the theater. Someone down in the front is arguing with his neighbor. His words are soft, but we can all hear him; “No, you watch it!” I amazed this idiot hasn’t gotten us all killed. A woman behind me is extra startled by events on screen. She can’t help but vocalize her distress to her companions. It’s risky, or at least annoying, but who could blame her? That much drama demands an outlet! It’s an outlet that would get her killed up on the screen, but it’s understandable in itself, if also more than a little distressing to a room full of people trying desperately to be quiet.
…which is the genius behind this film. The premise doesn’t just threaten us with monsters; it transforms our own nature into a source of terror. It turns the focus of horror onto the very human quality that is our own noisy nature. We all make sounds. We bang on stuff. We cause our seats to creak, and the ground crackles beneath our feet as we walk. Every once in awhile, we want to say something, even to say it loudly. All of this is perfectly normal until you walk into a theater to watch THIS movie. Then it becomes terrifying. Most anybody can be quiet for little awhile, but can you live your whole life in silence? I know a theater in Anchorage full of people who didn’t manage it for an hour and a half. Oh sure, we achieved a modicum of silence at about the half way point, but not the kind of silence it would have taken to survive in the world up on that screen. Had these monsters entered our own world, I’m not sure any of us would have made it to the third act.
The woman behind me at least would have been toast!
It’s tempting to see political analogies in this story-line. Some have seen it as direct commentary on the present state of American politics. Both John Krasinski (who directed and star in the film) and his costar Emily Blunt have denied that was the original idea. Instead, they suggest the point was to say something about families.
Whatever messages the film-makers might have intended to bundle-up in this movie, it seems easy enough to understand why people would see this film in political terms. The pressure to remain silent is something just about everyone has experienced in one form or another. For most of us, that pressure has been limited to fears of looking foolish, losing friends, or perhaps some reasonable fear that one could lose a job. Others have lived through the very real terror that speaking up could cost them their lives. Perhaps, their loved ones too! The premise here thus has the power to resonate with all manner of audiences well across the political spectrum. Whether the threat was trivial or genuinely hazardous, most (perhaps all) of us can recall the experience of stifling our own voice because of someone out there. In A Quiet Place that message becomes any sound whatsoever and that someone out there becomes a monster ready to rip us apart. It’s a metaphor easily mapped onto all manner of real world problems.
You can really feel the power of this theme in the rare moments when character do speak in A Quiet Place. The transgression of actual sound is shocking; the sense of liberation is powerful. When someone actually does shout in this film, it comes across as a supreme act of defiance. The character may have been shouting at a monster; but any one of us could well imagine the freedom to finally shout something at somebody or something in our lives.
…preferably without being ripped apart as a result.
Okay, so yes, I liked this movie
Also, the ending? The very last moment of this film?