04 November 2012

From silence to ambience

One of the most unnerving moments that I've felt while watching a film came near the end of Grant Gee's Joy Division documentary. Over footage of Manchester, the end credits, and then a white screen with more credits, they chose to play "Atmosphere" as the closing song. The unnerving part came after the song finished and over the white screen there came the sound of a church bell. This majestic song playing over a city and then emptiness gave way to silence and then that tolling. It felt like the end of the world. Thus the unnerving feeling. Was this a bell for a funeral? A sly allusion to Donne? Or the best way to communicate the legacy of Manchester and Joy Division? It felt to me like the definite end of something. But the transition from that music to silence to ambience also almost felt like liberation. Like the spell had to be broken by the reminder of this world. I still feel unnerved by the end of that documentary as if that could be the end of the world. Not a bang or a whimper to finish it. Just the dignified resignation that we all meet our end. That it stops and life continues elsewhere somehow. I'd like to think that the bell will always toll. Because that means someone is signalling and someone else is listening.

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