Thrillers based on the deprivation of basic human senses – vision, hearing, touch – hold a special fascination. Films including Phillip Noyce's Blind Fury (1990), Michael Apted's Blink (1994) and Hear No Evil perform at their best when they exploit the similarity between the human apparatus and the cinematic apparatus.
Who can forget the chilling scene in Claude Chabrol's La Muette (1966), an episode of Paris vu par ... (1964), when a little boy plugs his ears and the soundtrack goes completely dead throughout the entire, ghastly tragedy that unfolds?
Likewise, there are some great moments in Hear No Evil when the film enters into the silent, subjective world of Jillian (Marlee Matlin), whose daily struggles as a deaf person become exponentially more complex once a mysterious killer begins stalking her.
The plot intrigue is lightly Hitchcockian since Jillian is in possession of a classic MacGuffin – a valuable coin that has been slipped into her beeper without her knowledge.
Director Robert Greenwald ably orchestrates this modest but diverting thriller. Martin Sheen is riveting as the sadistic cop who, like the head Nazi in Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), tortures suspects to the strains of loud, classical music.
The love interest is even better. Jillian begins the film by lamenting that there are no good men left in the world who can sign, so the script provides her with Ben (D.B. Sweeney), a truly sensitive New Age Guy.
Beyond their eager signing, I would have to credit Matlin and Sweeney with the best kissing I've seen on screen in ages.
© Adrian Martin October 1994