Daily Archives: May 20, 2016

Movie: The Silences

I only just caught this at Cinema Nova before it disappeared. It’s a documentary memoir by feminist film maker Margot Nash, based on her own family story.  In her voice-over that opens the film, she explains that after her mother died, she and her sister couldn’t agree on the epitaph to put on her grave.  They both had a very different view of their mother, and this is Nash’s reflection on the ambivalent feelings she holds towards her mother and the secrets that lay within their family.

Visually, the documentary is a montage of images from photograph albums and clips from Nash’s other films, and it relies heavily on Nash’s voiceover to provide the narrative thread. What power a story-teller has in her hands, to expose others and mould a story to make it hers! And yet, just as when reading a book with an unreliable narrator, I found myself resisting her questions and her reworkings, largely because I was uncomfortable with the self-centredness of her endeavour.  While seeking nuance and adult explanation, there is still a childish, underlying protest at being locked out and being given only partial knowledge.  The film maker, who is very present in this documentary, is older than I am. Does she not have (as I do- along with most older people, I should imagine) an accumulated store of regrets, elisions, utterances and actions  that she, too, might want kept secret- or at least, private? Can there be no generosity in respecting others’ secrets? I found myself feeling complicit and disturbed by this movie, although I’m pleased that there was no pat solution, but instead a very human ambivalence.