With the sound switched off cinema becomes a visceral and visual experience. Without audio clues to connect readers to narrative, a film becomes unhinged; and yet without visuals, an aural experience treats a reader to an era bygone when radio transmissions told history and the wondrous human brain filled in the appropriate imagery. It was a familial experience but a deeply personal one as well: only the individual reader can ever know the deep hues of dusk or staccato contours of landscape. It will vary from person to person but the amorphous nature of memory renders sharing this experience subjective, wrong, and boring. Knowingly watching a movie with the sound off is bizarre in a different way. This method allows for shared experiences; families huddled around a coffee table talking over the television as if it were furniture; waiting rooms with broken speakers; a neighbor’s airplane seat. If the reader has seen the film before, her memory will fill in gaps with enough internal dialogue to render the experience manageable or pleasant, even. It can be a new head for an old hat.
Midnight Express offers an experience situated somewhere in the middle. The visual is full and common to the reader, but the language is intermittent: Midnight Express is written in English but set in Turkish for all intents and purposes. A reader will learn facts and frames of mind from the language spoken among native English speakers (assuming that the reader’s native or learned tongue is English!), but the sparseness among the Turkish manifests in uncanny glares and pure contempt. Later, the team responsible for this movie would apologize for how Midnight Express portrayed native Turkish people – which is telling in embedded globalization that film would have an impact on international relations. This fact surrounds its lore, but the key point, and the middle-driver is that the production team deliberately omitted the Turkish subtitles, and with them the tacit understanding that language is merely a driver for understanding and not the sole purpose of language and meaning ipso facto. Continue reading