In my opinion some of the best film sound is not loud or overt, and I've used silence many times in film soundtracks myself but I am interested to know what your favorite use of silence or near-silence is in a film?
In the Bedroom (SPOILER ALERT)
I actually will not say the spoiler because the terrible thing that occurs is written, directed, and acted so well that it scared me - not as in action movie explosions, bazooka shots, monsters, fights, etc. But actually made me jump like glancing over and seeing a little kid step into a street with a car coming on fast. Stomach drops and the brain dumps adrenaline into your bloodstream. The use of silence in those scenes is crucial. I will say no more. Watch the movie and don't allow anyone to tell you what happens.
And no - no one sees "dead people" and it is not "all a dream" or some other trope.
I like in one of the Star Wars movies, where Jengo Fett and his son Boba Fett in "Slave 1" are chasing Obi Wan and Anakin Skywalker through an asteroid field. Obi Wan and Anakin are zipping and zooming through holes in the asteroid trying to get away, and at one point someone fires a torpedo into the asteroid to scatter them about and creating a moving nightmare to navigate through. You see the shot, and everything goes dead silent, and you see the brilliant flash and the circular shockwave rip through the asteroids, and then THANGGGGGG with lots of reverb you hear the detonation afterwards. Its so awesome and the best use of silence in a film ever. Though totally technically incorrect, sound doesn't travel in empty space at all as there's no air / medium to carry it, it doesn't matter.
I recently saw the film Gravity, which deals with the "silence" of space excellently. Worth checking out.
Unlike most films set in space, they did not steer away from the fact that in space the is no sound due to the lack of atmosphere. Therefore in this film there was little or very muffled sounds that were there beautifully complemented by a very delicate, but powerful score.
I was also taken by the use of digetic and non-digetic music as well as the spatialization (I saw it in a 5.1 theatre, but I'd be keen to see it again in a Atoms theatre). At first the spatialization seemed a bit odd as it breaks with convention, but after a couple on mins it seemed normal
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I'm astounded no one mentioned it in this thread for as long as it's been up. There are ambient background noises but no dialogue for about 10 minutes at the beginning, and throughout the movie silence is used to add a sense of desolation to the wide open spaces or shift the focus to visual minutiae and add suspense. An incredible movie!
Great answers with awesome examples in this discussion!!
I really love the intensive use of silence in Nicolas Winding Refn's "Valhalla Rising" together with the droning ambiances & the minimalistic use of music & dialogue.
The film (for those who haven't seen it yet) is about the odyssey of a mute(!) Norse warrior (played by Mads Mikkelsen). That's why the use of silence in that movie works so unique with that character (at least for me :) ).
Like in the very first part of the film (not really a spoiler, since it's mentioned in the synopnis) where he frees himself from captivity & kills most of the guys who held him as a slave.
As he stands bloodsoaked in front of the leader of his captors, the film switches to silent scenes of a sky & then the main protagonist silently contemplating/watching it for the first time as a free man, only shortly before ruthlessly disemboweling the leader which was tied to a stone after the fight.
I also like the sound design of explosions with some super short silence in the initial moment of detonation.Like in Ben Burtt's "seismic charge"-Sfx from Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones which was already mentioned few times above. :)
Also thought about The Pianist, when the explosion happens while he is playing the piano right in the start of the movie. It just created this anticlimactic drama, this focus on the movements of the characters and on the aftermath of the explosion. And there's also the fact that he deafens, so by hearing the silence we are basically hearing what he hears at those moments. This whole scene is just so emotionally intense. Just... Wow.