I have been reading about ma, the Japanese word for negative space. The empty space that lies between the action. Those moments of reflection and quiet that don’t push the story forward, filled with inconsequential details.
Last night I watched Kaneto Shindo’s horror movie Onibaba, a film set set in a field of susuki reeds. The reeds moving in the breeze give a patterned texture to the film. It is quite the most beautiful horror film I have ever watched.
In a way it is similar to Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story. I watched this film last week and was struck by the last scene that shows the father Shūkichi sitting alone in his sitting room, looking out across the rooftops to the river. Not a word is said, and none are needed.
I like the idea of slowing down the action till there are no words to say. It is as if the characters see a world beyond their action. Ma is the artistic interpretation of empty space. It can be the space around individual flowers as in the art of Ikabana or the distance between the fighters as in martial arts like karate or kendo. It exists in complex relationships between every living thing.
How can I use silence in my writing? How do I put silence into words? Maybe I must listen when the world is still.