In A Silent Way – Film Review
by Killian Laher
Director – Gwenaël Brees
Writer – Gwenaël Brees
Stars – Phill Brown, Ian Curnow, Jim Irvin
In A Silent Way is ostensibly director Gwenael Brees’ documentary about Talk Talk and their revered fourth album Spirit of Eden. However, this illusion is shattered by the opening sequence, as Brees recounts a letter he received where the late Mark Hollis refuses permission for any of the band’s music to be used in the film. In addition, virtually all of the band declined to appear in the film. What we get instead is an exploration of the viability of making a film at all under such constraints and interviews with some of the engineers and journalists who were involved with Talk Talk around the time.
To attempt to capture the essence of what influenced the album, Brees travels to some of the formative locations in England where the band spent time. They make some field recordings, but to what end is unclear, it’s not fully explained. Brees’ commentary about what the music means to him is clearly heartfelt but comes across as rather pretentious. The film is interspersed with interviews with people who knew Mark Hollis, and his brother Ed, a member of Eddie and the Hot Rods, and some who played with the band. It’s been documented how the band worked on Spirit of Eden in complete darkness for nine months. Engineer Phill Brown describes how, after recording Spirit of Eden, his wife said “if you work with that band again you’ll have to move out”. So when he was asked to work with them on the follow-up Laughing Stock, he moved out! There are also some archive clips of TV interviews with the bands from the mid-eighties where enthusiastic presenters receive the most deadpan answers to some excruciating questions.
At one point Gwenael Brees finds himself outside Mark Hollis’ house but quickly departs. It’s difficult to figure out what appeal this film will have to anyone but extremely hardcore fans of latter-day Talk Talk. And even they will find themselves scratching their heads at times during the film.