Dominic Dromgoole’s beautifully sensitive take on Robert Holman’s short plays effectively examines the various ways that war impacts on people’s lives.
Having first been seen on stage in 1986 at London’s Bush Theatre, Robert Holman’s wonderfully insightful short plays translate well to screen thanks to director Dominic Dromgoole’s sensitive but sharply thoughtful film.
Spread across three different decades, Making Noise Quietly explores the impact that war has on ordinary people. The film takes audiences from 1944 in which two young men unexpectedly form a bond and discuss the morality of the war, through to 1982 in which a mother learns of the death of her son fighting in the Falklands war to 1996 in which a German woman and concentration camp survivor attempts to bring British squaddie and his autistic son closer together. Throughout it all, the film explores themes of hurt, guilt, grief and anger to poignant effect that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged.
While initially, Dromgoole’s film is slightly tentative in its approach making it difficult to engage with meaning it can be disjointed in places, the way in which he sharply highlights each individual character’s own perspective and story draws the audience effectively into the film is extremely powerful. In particular, it is the quiet moments in the film that allow the audience to reflect on what has been said. This is highlighted in the scene in which Helene reflects on her own experience in the concentration camp and with a particular warden who treated her violently – no tears or over the top reaction needed to enhance it but a moment of quietness that is extremely powerful.
Everything about this film is understated that might not appeal to some people, however the simplicity and sensitivity in the way in which the film has been directed really works well in drawing out the key themes and emotions from the plays. This is shown during the moment in which May finds out about the death of her son from Geoffrey – the pain, anguish and and anger runs right through without overwhelming the poignancy in the scene that has been well written by Robert Holman, Nick Drake and Mark Rosenblatt.
Along with Stephen Warbeck’s gorgeous score and Nick Cooke’s cinematography, Making Noise Quietly is exquisite to watch capturing the tone of the film perfectly. For example the moments in which May is watching children pass by her window highlight that sense of loss that she is feeling.
However, there are moments when the transitions from moment to moment can feel slightly stilted – particularly during the opening scenes of the film that don’t quite sit comfortably and could be smoother.
Yet, the performances throughout are all wonderfully judged. Deborah Findley in particular stands out as Helene determined to smooth out the violent nature between step father and son – bringing to life a character whose resilience is admirable. It is a sharp and sympathetic performance that stays with you long after the film has finished. Elsewhere, Barbara Marten as May also offers a memorable performance as the grieving but angry May as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her son and Trystan Gravelle as the confused and angry Alan taking out his anger on his young step son offers a raw but engaging performance.
Making Noise Quietly is a raw but engaging film that has the power to mesmerise. Despite its flaws in terms of making the transition from decade to decade, the themes that it brings to life from the play resonate strongly throughout.
By Emma Clarendon
Making Noise Quietly is released in cinemas on the 19th July.