Jul 31, 2023
Silence is golden

Drawing inspirations from movies to understand the vital role of silence in our work environment

Biju Chandran

Silence is golden.

Being a passionate cinema fan and having aspired to be a filmmaker in my past life, I often find myself drawn to creative methods that amplify the drama in a scene. A prime example of such a technique is the use of silence.

Silence is the complete absence of sound.

In the world of cinema, silence often speaks volumes. Consider the iconic Trinity Test scene in Christopher Nolan's movie 'Oppenheimer'. (No Spoilers). Here, the use of silence is not just a creative decision, but a tool of storytelling that allows us to truly feel the gravity of the moment. The absence of sound highlights the emotional intensity and lets the visual narrative take precedence, resulting in a poignant, unforgettable cinematic experience. The scene is also scientifically accurate, showcasing that light travels faster than sound – a fascinating detail for both film and science enthusiasts.

Another instance where silence speaks volumes is the heart-wrenching ending of 'Godfather III' as Michael Corleone's daughter is killed on the steps of the Opera House. Though not absolute silence, we don’t hear Michael’s screaming; the sound cuts out, so we only see it, while hearing the immortal Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (the opera they’ve all just been watching), which both highlights and tempers the melodramatic intensity of the scene. “It was Walter Murch who removed the sound from it and created the ‘silent scream.’ It was not me,” Francis Ford Coppola said in an interview, crediting his legendary editor.

Similarly, in our workplace, the power of silence is often overlooked. As we navigate our professional lives, the hustle and bustle of meetings, brainstorming sessions, and presentations often dominate our workday. But it’s the moments of quiet - the pauses between discussions, the silence during contemplation, the stillness during decision-making - that often lead to the most profound insights and breakthroughs.

Silence gives us the space to reflect, to absorb what we've learned, to truly listen to others, and to formulate meaningful responses. So next time when you are in a meeting or crafting an important email, take a moment of silence. Reflect on what's been said, understand the underlying narrative, and then respond. Much like in film, sometimes the most potent communication comes not from what's being said, but from what's left unsaid.