Ever had one of those days when speech is beyond you? When the simple act of talking to others is such an ordeal and all you want to do is just grunt your replies rather than forming words? That might have been how Steve Oram pitched Aaaaaaah!, a film about everyday life that includes absolutely no dialogue, to Julian Barratt, of Mighty Boosh fame. Barratt himself described the pitch as being little more than ‘do you want to grunt and make monkey noises throughout a whole film?’ There was a script according to the interview Barratt give BBC Radio 4, but the moment all of the actors knew their lines, or rather what their characters were supposed to be feeling in any given scene, it was thrown out of the window. Probably metaphorically rather than literally, but in a film described by its creators as ‘Romeo and Juliet meets Planet of the Apes’ but with lots more sex and violence- anything’s possible.
The excerpt played on Radio 4 consisted of Alpha and Beta trying to out grunt each other.
Aaaaaaah! is like a wildlife documentary on the surreal and the absurd; the only thing missing being David Attenborough’s narration. All the elements that make up what we’d define as definite human interaction have been stripped away to focus purely on the primal essence of each character. In a scene where Barratt’s family are having a roast dinner, with a human leg being the main course, naturally, Barratt as the Alpha male decides to give himself the biggest helping. His Beta chooses that moment to challenge him for leadership of the family. The excerpt played on Radio 4 consisted of Alpha and Beta trying to out grunt each other, each competing to produce the loudest amount of noise. Their confrontation becomes tenser by the second until a girl’s laughter cuts through it all in a moment of utter contrast.
Aaaaaaah! will definitely become a cult hit, even if it’s more for the grunting than the story, but this is a narrative which has the potential to be a universally acceptable one. Events and emotions will be conveyed differently, but in the same way we enjoy subtitled films, who’s to say Oram’s maverick idea couldn’t catch on? The actors in Aaaaaaah!, by conveying their raw emotions and primal urges will be drawing you into their story in a far more intimate and connected way than is possible normal dialogue. The film will also be able to speak to anyone, because, even if an audience only understands one spoken language, any audience can understand gesture and posture.
So Aaaaaaah! has the potential to be a cult classic- the kind film aficionados talk about with knowing grins, offering looks of incredulity whenever someone asks them what exactly it’s about. Its success is going to be hampered only by how big, or how small a release it has, for while the independent cinemas will happily show it, pitching it to the big chains will be an interesting experience for anyone distributor, which is a pity because Aaaaaaah! is the kind of film that anyone, regardless of their tastes, could enjoy.
By Gareth Wood