Five short tales of love, longing, ambition and the passing of time, Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes is conceived almost as a piece of music in five movements.
Each story is told by a different narrator, though each, speaking in the first person, carry the same tone and could be read as one in five bodies. There are several refrains – hotels and spare bedrooms, open windows – and the stories cycle round, beginning and ending in Italy. Music itself is a thread – all but one of the narrators an aspiring musician - and always its comfort, beauty and inspiration butting against the awkward, often unsatisfying backdrop of the characters' lives.
Elegant, witty, heartbreakingly insightful at times. Stories like the snippets of tunes heard from car windows.
So rich are the sounds and visuals of Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's 1998 film The Silence that it would be possible to come away from a viewing feeling completely satisfied by those alone. It's more than that though – allegory abounds and the subtle immersion into another's world leaves you thinking about it for days after it ends.
Khorshid, a young blind boy living in Tajikstan, travels each day to the music shop where he works as a instrument tuner. The money's important: the landlord is threatening eviction and his mother relies on him. Life is challenging enough without sight, and Khorshid, so enchanted by the sounds he hears all around, is constantly distracted.
The narrative is simple, the dialogue much the same, and the action moves slow. At times it's abstract to the point of allusiveness. This is no typical art film however – its poeticism not only a cinematic construct but a necessary tool under the strictures of its political moment.
The camera lingers on close ups – light, colour, youth, beauty. Intense clarity that twangs the heart.
And always the sounds – constant and compelling. Just as Khorshid is guided by his innate sense of beauty, so this film guides an exploration. It's personal and political. Fantasy and reality. Let it take you by the hand and lead you where it wants you to go.
In our ears this May: