Cool music adds to unusual no-dialog approach in ‘Hiroshima’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, January 14, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

A day in the life: A young guy named Juan goes through his paces, from getting off work to swimming with his girlfriend to getting in a shoving match with his father to singing with his band. The movie “Hiroshima” is there to follow it, an unremarkable day made remarkable for a couple of reasons.

One, the film has no spoken dialogue. Silent-movie intertitles fill in the places where we see people speak but don’t hear their voices — a curious omission, since we hear all the other sounds, music and even a baby’s voice.

Also, Uruguayan filmmaker Pablo Stoll doesn’t choose to add any drama to this otherwise nondescript day. His camera follows along behind Juan, sometimes for a very long time.

The shoving match is in comical slow motion, and we glimpse a glimmer of a story in the idea that Juan is a somewhat unreliable person. His bandmates have to remind him to be on time for that night’s gig, and his parents feel they must enter his name in a “work lottery,” where he can win a job if his number comes up.

Juan doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. He just sort of floats along to the next thing — usually to the music pumping through his headphones, which we hear for at least half the movie’s running time.

The floppy-haired, perpetually dazed Juan is played by Juan Andres Stoll, the director’s brother. The filmmaker has indicated that his brother is essentially playing himself, a mostly silent dude who lives for music.

And there the whole silent-film approach begins to make sense. If Juan is a guy who lives inside his head, then to other people it might appear as though he’s starring in a silent movie. One with a totally cool music soundtrack, of course.

“Hiroshima” is for people who can tap into the particularly slow rhythms of an observational movie, where nothing really happens but a lot rings true. On its own terms, the movie works.

The title? You have to get to the final scene to get the reference, not that it particularly explains anything. At that point we see Juan in a way we haven’t seen before, and suddenly the previous 70 minutes make a different kind of sense.

“Hiroshima”

This film by Uruguayan director Pablo Stoll is an observational piece: Not much happens as we follow an uncommunicative young musician through a day’s paces. The approach is unusual, however; there’s no spoken dialogue, but a great deal of music, as though other people experience this guy (who is played by the filmmaker’s brother) as someone living in a silent movie.

Rated: Not rated; probably R for nudity

Showing: Northwest Film Forum

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