Guillermo del Toro’s new movie The Shape of Water is upon us from 14th February. (Unlimited members: book for your advance screening here.) Having earned del Toro a Golden Globe for Best Director, the sumptuous fantasy-romance has also landed star Sally Hawkins Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.
No mean feat when one considers she plays a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibious creature – it’s a delightful performance buoyed entirely by physicality and facial expressions. Hawkins’ performance proves that silence is often golden, and here a few other examples of (near) silence speaking volumes...
Vito Corleone – The Godfather Part II (1974)
It's established in the first Godfather film that mob boss Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) is a man who prefers to let his actions speak louder than his words. Francis Ford Coppola’s sequel only emphasises this, taking us back to Vito's younger years.
It should come as little surprise that acting legend Robert De Niro can craft a performance without saying much. Though the character is hardly a complete mute, he doesn’t speak often, preferring instead to let his ever-watchful eyes do his talking.
De Niro’s younger incarnation of mobster Corleone silently stalks the rooftops of New York before assassinating a rival at his door – no one-liners are needed here. It’s testament to De Niro’s talent that such a muted performance could be so well revered, earning him his first Oscar in the process.
Will Sally Hawkins’ performance in The Shape of Water draw similar accolades in this year’s Oscar nominations?
Chewbacca – Star Wars (1977)
OK, so Chewbacca can technically speak, but no-one aside from his best friends actually know what he’s saying. Telling people how it is through a series of iconic growls, this big 'walking carpet' of a beast (to quote Carrie Fisher's Leia) has become one of cinema’s most beloved characters with not a single word spoken.
The perfect foil to the scruffy-looking nerf herder that is Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewie complements the smuggler’s wordy charm with stature and near silence. There is something wonderfully universal about Chewbacca’s unique sound, with the odd utterance telling you everything you need to know.
Michael Myers – Halloween (1978)
A staple of the slasher movie genre, Michael Myers demonstrates the sheer terror that silence can bring, and in this case the lack of noise usually means you’re about to get a knife in the back.
Conveying nothing through sound, the intimidation of Myers is carried through his sheer size, intimidating walk and blank, expressionless mask. As he chases all manner of teenage victims from pillar to post, knife in hand, not a sound is uttered as he murders his way through the sleepy town of Haddonfield. It is through his actions that Myers talks, and, frankly, they say more than mere words ever could.
Max – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The long-awaited follow-up to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome sees Tom Hardy take up the mantle of road warrior from Mel Gibson. Essentially a two-hour car chase through the desert, Fury Road brought Max back with a beautifully shot, action-packed masterpiece of a movie.
It also rendered him pretty much silent. Never really one for giving speeches or even uttering more than two or three syllables at a time, Hardy’s Max is made up of a series of grunts and growls as he navigates his way through the hellish landscapes, looking for gasoline and a place to be left alone.
Hardy has become renowned for acting more with his eyes than most do with their whole bodies, and Fury Road is no different. Though he may have a few lines of dialogue, it’s what he doesn’t say that makes him memorable.
Wall-E – Wall-E (2008)
Expertly designed to portray emotion through his adorably giant eyes, Pixar’s Wall-E need only speak his name with a slightly different inflection and a movement of his eyelids to convey everything going on in his inquisitive robot brain.
Scurrying around a trash-piled Earth in search of trinkets and perhaps a friend, Wall-E goes to show that you don’t need to be much of a talker to get the girl, save the world, and completely beguile the audience.
Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.