The Sounds of Silence of the Douro

Life on the Douro is in the final stages of editing, and I’m working on the audio, agonizing over the right mix of the interviews, casual conversations, background sounds, and music. The music should convey a certain sense of pace and atmosphere, but be neutral, so that it doesn’t impose an emotional mood. It shouldn’t dictate to the viewer that which the film fails to convey.

Then there are background sounds ranging from birds to tractors, to the clanging of the bottling plant, to the snipping sounds of the pruning and harvest, all of these creating a rhythm and music of its own, all of them part of the story, and have to be edited as music, just as the music has to become a natural sound.

Life on the Douro covers centuries of history, family intermarriages, and fortunes and misfortunes, as well as today’s complex situation, problems and regulations, all to be told within a certain time frame. For now I’d like to get it in at 75-80 minutes, 90 minutes tops, although I may do a more extended video installation and a series of shorter films later on with the wealth of material that I have.

Everyone has their story, and every story is important and part of it, but if it becomes too dense, then the sense of time – and wine is nothing if not about time – becomes lost. Working long days in the field, grapes from countless vines picked generation after generation, vineyards planted so that they’ll be ready to give fruit for wine in five or ten years’ or another generation’s time – how do I depict that, the beauty of that, lost in modern urban life?

Then there’s the silence the mountains and the vines that also have their stories, more eternal and enduring than that of man, that have the first word and the last say, all of which has to be listened to and told.

I’m fascinated, sometimes amazed, by the stories I hear from the interviewees, and as I cut out a phrase, I ponder whether I’m getting to the essence of it, or whether I’m losing something essential. But there are moments when I look at the images of the terraced vineyards that I think that maybe I should cut it all out, and just let the birds and tractors and vines and mountains speak for themselves.


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