THE ACT OF LISTENING [2017-2018]

50 Representations: An interest in how the act of listening is performed and revealed in film.

Certain paintings make me imagine what they sound like as music. This painting does that for me. I see how everything layered and scraped away, figures emerge from the field of hyperactive mess, accidents get muddled up with intentions. I think of a dark, jagged African hip-hop, stray voices shouting in and out of the mix and a mosque with a bad PA system wailing in the background. [Brian Eno; text accompanying Jean Dubuffet's The Busy Life in Tate Modern]

I discovered this a few years ago. Painted in 1953 and part of what the artist called his 'beaten pastes' series, The Busy Life is a mesh of abstract shapes and lines revealling distorted human figures and jagged city buildings. Later I discovered that writer and musician David Toop had begun to explore the representation of sound and silence in paintings. I became interested in how film characters express the private act of listening. A listening towards sounds emanating from the other side of the wall, from distant places, found recordings, telephone lines, from inside the mind.

Top row (L-R): Dancer in the Dark [2000] •Ucho ('The Ear') [1970] • Time of the Wolf [2003] •Autumn Sonata [1978]
Second row: The Sacrifice [1986] •A Man Escaped [1956] •Barton Fink [1990] •Contact [1997]
Third row: Son of Saul [2015] •The Double Life of Veronique [1991]•The Sacrifice [1986] •Carnival of Souls [1962]
Fourth row: The Haunting [1963] •Code Unknown [2001]•Das Boot [1981] •The Conversation [1974]

WHAT TRUTH LIES IN THE ACT OF LISTENING?

Werner Herzog asks his subjects to listen to the (apparent) subterranean soundscape in the documentary Encounters at the End of World [2007]. Real or imagined, what truth may reveal itself through the act of listening? "....What moves me has never been reality, but a question that lies behind it: the question of truth." - Herzog.

#21 Through a Glass Darkly [1961] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

Hidden voices: Hariott Andersson as Karin

Hidden voices: Hariott Andersson as Karin

#22 The Virgin Spring [1960] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

"I hear what I want to hear and see what I want to see. I hear what men whisper in secret and see what they think no one they sees. You can hear it yourself, if you wish. Just listen...." - the bridge keeper

Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) and the three dead men riding north.

Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) and the three dead men riding north.

#23 Rififi [1955] - dir. Jules Dassin

Falling debris disturbs the quiet of the heist.

Falling debris disturbs the quiet of the heist.

#24 Touch of Evil [1958] - dir. Orson Welles

Surveillance: Charlton Heston as Miguel "Mike" Vargas listening in to Hank Quinlan.

Surveillance: Charlton Heston as Miguel "Mike" Vargas listening in to Hank Quinlan.

#25 The Battle of Algiers [1966] - dir. Gillo Pontecorvo

The last listen in the Casbah.

The last listen in the Casbah.

#26 Clean, Shaven [1993] - dir. Lodge Kerrigan

Act of listening, of hearing? Voices in the head: Peter Greene as Peter Winter in  Clean, Shaven .

Act of listening, of hearing? Voices in the head: Peter Greene as Peter Winter in Clean, Shaven.

#27 The Naked Gun [1988] - dir. David Zucker, Peter Segal

Anger and bewilderment: Frank Drebin's radio mic transforms the police press conference into a communal toilet experience in  The Naked Gun  [1988].

Anger and bewilderment: Frank Drebin's radio mic transforms the police press conference into a communal toilet experience in The Naked Gun [1988].

#28 Persona [1966] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

The perpetual listening ear: Liv Ullmann in Bergman's sublime  Persona  [1966].

The perpetual listening ear: Liv Ullmann in Bergman's sublime Persona [1966].

#29 The Asphalt Jungle [1950] - dir. John Huston

"Listen...I know you are police reporters and you hear this all day long, but I want you to listen with conscience not just your ears." - John McIntire in  The Asphalt Jungle  [1950].

"Listen...I know you are police reporters and you hear this all day long, but I want you to listen with conscience not just your ears." - John McIntire in The Asphalt Jungle [1950].

#30 Silence [1963] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

Radio Bach: Ingrid Thulin as Ester in Bergman's  Silence  [1963].

Radio Bach: Ingrid Thulin as Ester in Bergman's Silence [1963].

#31 Cries and Whispers [1972] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

- "Anna...do you hear?"
- "I only hear the wind and the clocks ticking."
- "No, it's something else."
- "I don't hear anything else."

Kari Sylwan and Ingrid Thulin in the hypnotic masterpiece  Cries and Whispers  from 1972.

Kari Sylwan and Ingrid Thulin in the hypnotic masterpiece Cries and Whispers from 1972.

#32 Shame [1968] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

The distant sound of explosions; the torment of war: Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann in Bergman's  Shame  [1968].

The distant sound of explosions; the torment of war: Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann in Bergman's Shame [1968].

#33 Summer Interlude [1951] - dir. Ingmar Bergman

Birger Malmsten and Maj-Britt Nilsson in Bergman's  Summer Interlude  [1951].

Birger Malmsten and Maj-Britt Nilsson in Bergman's Summer Interlude [1951].

#34 Sleepless in Seattle [1993] - dir. Nora Ephron

A distant voice from across the airwaves: Meg Ryan moved to tears in this Bergman-esque sequence from S leepless in Seattle  [1993]. Little surprise perhaps to find out that Sven Nykvist - Ingmar Bergman's longtime collaborator - worked as cinematographer on this film.

A distant voice from across the airwaves: Meg Ryan moved to tears in this Bergman-esque sequence from Sleepless in Seattle [1993]. Little surprise perhaps to find out that Sven Nykvist - Ingmar Bergman's longtime collaborator - worked as cinematographer on this film.

#35 Stalker [1979] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

The distant murmurings of the Zone.

The distant murmurings of the Zone.

#36 Nostalghia [1983] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

Memory as heard, seen, felt: Oleg Yankovsky as the Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov in Tarkovsky's strange  Nostalghia  from 1983.

Memory as heard, seen, felt: Oleg Yankovsky as the Russian writer Andrei Gorchakov in Tarkovsky's strange Nostalghia from 1983.

#37 Ivan's Childhood [1962] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

An angelic voice from beyond the front.

An angelic voice from beyond the front.

#38 A Robert Bresson Triptych: Diary of a Country Priest [1951], Pickpocket [1958] and A Man Escaped [1956]

"Unfortunately, our era is a bit like a school of inattention. I want to say that we are taught - that radio, magazines, television teach us to look without seeing and to listen without hearing. But what I want is to teach the opposite: to teach us how to see." [ Amis du film , April 1960 - from  Bresson on Bresson: Interviews 1943-1983 ]

"Unfortunately, our era is a bit like a school of inattention. I want to say that we are taught - that radio, magazines, television teach us to look without seeing and to listen without hearing. But what I want is to teach the opposite: to teach us how to see." [Amis du film, April 1960 - from Bresson on Bresson: Interviews 1943-1983]

#39 Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Listening in for the perfect kill: Ray Milland as the murder-plotting husband in Hitchcock's  Dial M for Murder  [1954].

Listening in for the perfect kill: Ray Milland as the murder-plotting husband in Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder [1954].

#40 Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] - dir. Alain Resnais

The coughing man outside the window: Emmanuelle Riva with Eiji Okada in the beautifully poetic  Hiroshima Mon Amour  from 1959.

The coughing man outside the window: Emmanuelle Riva with Eiji Okada in the beautifully poetic Hiroshima Mon Amour from 1959.

#41 Onibaba [1964] - dir. Kaneto Shindo

Sounds of fighting on the horizon: Fresh pickings for Jitsuko Yoshimura and Nobuko Otowa in Kaneto Shindo's brilliant  Onibaba  [1964].

Sounds of fighting on the horizon: Fresh pickings for Jitsuko Yoshimura and Nobuko Otowa in Kaneto Shindo's brilliant Onibaba [1964].

#42 The Belovs [1993] - dir. Victor Kossakovsky

Eight portraits of a listening lady: Anna Belova listening to the sound recorder in Kossakovsky's poetic  The Belovs  [1993].

Eight portraits of a listening lady: Anna Belova listening to the sound recorder in Kossakovsky's poetic The Belovs [1993].

#43 A Michelangelo Antonioni Triptych: L'Avventura [1960], La Notte [1961] and L'Eclisse [1962]

Listening as being-in-the-world: Monica Vitti performing in Antoninoi's "trilogy on modernity and its discontents".

Listening as being-in-the-world: Monica Vitti performing in Antoninoi's "trilogy on modernity and its discontents".

#44 The Passenger [1975] dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

Hotel tapes: Jack Nicholson listening to Robertson's voice on the tape recorder.

Hotel tapes: Jack Nicholson listening to Robertson's voice on the tape recorder.

#45 The Lives of Others [2006] dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

You know what Lenin said about Beethoven's Appassionata? - "If I keep listening to it, I won't finish the revolution." Can anyone who has listened to this music, I mean truly heard it, really be a bad person?

Listening man captivated by the power of Beethoven:

Listening man captivated by the power of Beethoven:

#46 Samurai Rebellion [1964] dir. Masaki Kobayashi

Toshiro Mifune as the retired master swordsman Isaburo Sasahara.

Toshiro Mifune as the retired master swordsman Isaburo Sasahara.

#47 Ugetsu [1953] dir. Kenji Mizoguchi

Voices from beyond the grave: Noh chanting in Mizoguchi's masterpiece  Ugetsu  [1953].

Voices from beyond the grave: Noh chanting in Mizoguchi's masterpiece Ugetsu [1953].

#48 The Sword of Doom [1966] dir. Kihachi Okamoto

- "I didn't see anything, but I distinctly heard sounds. Mountain winds. They rise up from deep in the valleys, blowing up the young green leaves. Beyond all you see, are endless mountain ranges that fade far away into the clouds."

Fear eats the soul: Sounds from out of the past and into the present as Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) wrestles with his own being.

Fear eats the soul: Sounds from out of the past and into the present as Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) wrestles with his own being.

#49 Late Spring [1949] dir. Yasujiro Ozu

Three perspectives of a listener: Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara attending the Noh performance.

Three perspectives of a listener: Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara attending the Noh performance.

#50 Double Indemnity [1944] dir. Billy Wilder

Probing the recorded past: Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) listening to the ear piece in the film noir classic  Double Indemnity  [1944].

Probing the recorded past: Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) listening to the ear piece in the film noir classic Double Indemnity [1944].