Enjoy the Silence: ‘The Last Jedi’ Offers an Artistic Break from the Noise

Star Wars: The Last Jedi silence warning at Regal Cinemas in Southampton
Star Wars: The Last Jedi silence warning at Regal Cinemas in Southampton, Photo: Tom W. Ratcliffe, Cathy Yeulet/123RF

Before even sitting down to watch the very first local showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 7 p.m. in Southampton on Thursday, I and other moviegoers were presented a special message warning us the film would contain a moment of silence. Pasted up at the ticket counter, the note was designed to prepare our hyperactive contemporary sensibility for this ever so brief, but possibly painfully disconcerting, section without sound. No sound! Perish the thought.

It reads:

To our valued guests

The Last Jedi contains a sequence of
silence at approximately 1 hour 52 minutes
into the feature. This is a creative element
of the particular scene it occurs in and the
audio of the feature is not defective.

Feel free to see a manager if there are any
questions, and enjoy the show!

Now, beyond my frustration with the weirdly placed preposition and missed comma confusing the second sentence, I have some serious issues with this pamphlet—or more specifically, the fact that Regal Cinemas (or Disney) felt the need to use it in the first place. Has our society become so stupid as to require an explanation for 20 seconds (give or take; I’m totally guessing here) of artistically arranged footage without sound? Would anyone not realize this was done for dramatic effect?

Without spoiling the movie too much—sensitive “no spoilers” people may still want to stop reading—the silent sequence occurs at a pivotal moment in the story. It’s a shocking, triumphant and tragic event that is given much greater weight by the absence of sound.

Silence, of course, has even more gravity for those of us who live in a world of constant noise and distraction. Loud sounds once grabbed people’s attention by breaking the silence, but today, it’s the bits of quiet that get us to look up from whatever we’re doing. Auditory tranquility is, for most, a rare and beautiful thing amid the constant white noise of our lives.

One of 2017’s most notable books, Erling Kagge’s Silence: In the Age of Noise, explores exactly this. The author found blissful quietude trekking in Antarctica’s South Pole, which he calls “the quietest place I’ve ever been.” And through his travels and constant rumination on silence, Kagge comes to understand that “the world’s secrets are hidden” within it.

I’m not suggesting we all must hike Antarctica, but perhaps we should be a bit more mindful of the value offered by quiet moments and down time. Maybe we should consider the purpose of the next silent film sequence or well-timed break in an otherwise hard-charging song?

Certainly, we should think before running to the cinema manager with questions and complaints.

And, Disney (or Regal), you might also think before assuming that’s exactly what we’d do.

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