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“A Quiet Place”: Film Analysis

A Quiet Place is a 2018 horror and mystery thriller directed by John Krasinski. The plot revolves around a family—wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), husband Lee (John Krasinski), and their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward)—who struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by blind aliens with hypersensitive hearing. The film heavily relies on sound effects and narrative structure to convey its central motif, a dreadful life in which silence is a means of survival.

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The film A Quiet Place tells a story of a world where predatory monsters have annihilated the Earth and made anything that makes a sound their prey. The plot focuses on the life of a family that seemed to have survived for more than a year by communicating in American Sign Language. The couple struggles with more than just survival after the tragic death of their youngest son. What is more, Emily Blunt’s character is pregnant, so she has to manage to stay silent during labor and muffle the cries of a newborn baby. The characters have to adapt and find a way to combat the mysterious, dangerous creatures—without making a single sound.

Auditory impressions are pivotal to the story’s presentation in a world where noises are virtually fatal. The director heavily relies on the use of sounds to convey the immediate surroundings of the characters. By providing the viewer with what the characters hear, Krasinski creates a deeper connection between the plot and the audience. He includes a wide range of sounds, as loud as a roaring stream or as minute as a crackling fire, to fully immerse the viewer into the atmosphere of the dystopic world (A Quiet Place 34:49-36:00). Moreover, the occasional contrast between the degree of loudness of the sounds adds to the tension essential to the film.

For instance, the soft sound of rolling dice is suddenly interrupted by the sharp noise of a shattering lantern (A Quiet Place 19:00-19:30). The film’s atmosphere benefits from adding a variety of ubiquitous sounds as it enables the complete immersion of the audience in the world filled with aliens.

The effect mentioned above is supported by a more conventional usage of sound in cinema, namely short musical compositions. Rather than conveying what the characters hear, short pieces of music are used to establish the characters’ inner state. For example, as the father and son prepare to go foraging, the director inserts a mellow instrumental composition to develop a sense of serenity (A Quiet Place 30:00-32:30). In contrast, the viewer hears an increasingly unsettling melody, which helps understand that the characters become uneasy and filled with dread as they realize that the aliens are approaching (A Quiet Place 46:05-47:50). The usage of music in the film is appropriate and contributes to the general perception of the events.

The sounds—and often the absence of any—are intertwined with the narrative structure. A technique frequently used in the film is contrasting silent scenes with loud episodes. For example, the encounter with another survivor in the woods, ending in a piercing scream and an attack from the alien, is followed by a seemingly peaceful scene in the nursery (A Quiet Place 42:35-45:00). Although the events’ respective sites were not in geographical proximity to each other, the contrast still keeps the viewer engaged and uncertain of what comes next. Moreover, such an approach conveys the pace at which a situation can escalate in this post-apocalyptic world—essentially, at the speed of sound.

It is also worth noting that Krasinski has created an individual narrative for each character. Most notably, he juxtaposes the deaf daughter Reagan’s perception of the world to that of her family by removing sound from her perspective (A Quiet Place 3:40-4:30). This approach adds another facet to Reagan’s story, mainly to emphasize her guilt over her brother’s death because he could not hear his mistake. Moreover, the character’s journey is also central to the movie as she ultimately becomes the solution and the weapon to distress the creatures.

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A Quiet Place proves to be a worthwhile watch for several reasons. First, although the film shows a quintessential horror film scenario—a group of survivors trying to outsmart a vicious unknown creature— the presentation of the narrative, particularly reliance on auditory techniques, makes it a singular cinematographic piece. Second, the plot touches upon classic problems, such as parents’ unconditional love and willingness to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their offspring. Finally, conveying the general ideas of the film in the virtual absence of dialogue makes the piece even more exhilarating. If one is looking for an engaging and nerve-racking visual and auditory piece, the masterful combination of various film forms in A Quiet Place makes it the perfect recommendation.

Work Cited

A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski, performances by Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, Paramount Pictures, 2018.

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