Branagh Premieres Silent Film In Bristol
Bristol Evening Post , September 2003
With the Watershed firing on all cylinders again, Bristol Silents return with a fabulous event to kick off their autumn season.
On Tuesday (September 16) Kenneth Branagh will be arriving in Bristol to introduce the premiere no less, of his new silent film, Listening. And if the introduction isn't enough of a reason to get you scurrying down there, he'll also be hosting a Q&A after the film.
But first, there's the small matter of Mr Branagh's visit to deal with. Listening was created as a homage to the silent genre, with a contemporary twist. This event will be a rare chance to see the film on a bug screen, and find out from Branagh himself why he decided to make it. And it's fitting that Bristol Silents patron Paul McGann, most famous for his performance in Withnail and I and a long-time silent buff, was Branagh's choice of leading man.
The film is set in a kind of retreat - a big house where people come to find a little peace and quiet - which is why the short is almost without dialogue.
"I've not been to those places before," McGann says, "but Kenneth said it was an experience in one of them that led him to create the film."
The short tells the story of a man and a woman who meet while on the retreat, become close, but because of the rules of the house can't converse with each other.
"They have these silent conversations just through mime," McGann says.
"Literally, it's not a silent film, because there is some sound in it, but nobody says anything (background noise is amplified at times). But silents weren't silent either, because characters did speak and held cards to explain dialogue."
Listening is only a 15-minute film, filmed in Kenneth Branagh's house and garden over the period of a week.
"We spent a week shooting this movie, without saying anything," McGann says. "Kenneth rang me and said 'Do you want to do a silent movie?' and he knows I'm a silents buff. So of course I said 'yes' and he said 'Well can you start Monday?' We filmed Listening in the house, because Kenneth being Kenneth can mount a production and shoot it all at home. It was very beautiful.
"When Kenneth said there was going to be no dialogue, I loved that. Most actors, particularly in television, where the burden of exposition and plot is so big, don't get to talk about their characters - and often you think 'Why do we need all these words?' Actors are begging for less and less dialogue."
And if you want to hear less mumbo-jumbo and see a bit more sense, Listening is at the Watershed on Tuesday, September 16 at 6pm.