The Quiet Zone‘s first image is that of a man walking up to the rim of a satellite dish. It’s a reminder of the great time we live in and of what we make. The man is like Icarus, flying towards the sky. The dish is part of the Green Bank Radio Telescope, the largest one in the world.
The telescope needs protection from terrestrial radio waves. And thus the State of West Virginia helped create the National Radio Quiet Zone for the area surrounding it. The documentary sometimes shows the people working on the site. These workers are intelligent people, explaining to us how all objects and beings emit radio waves. The industrial sounds surrounding these workers add to the film’s mood.
The film focuses more on the zone being a refuge for electrically sensitive people. It tries to express how these people feel in the electronically driven world through expressionist, Norman McLaren-y film strips. And these sensations return to them in learning that the government has been thinking about closing the quiet zone.
The score’s occasional use of static sounds also helps us to be in tune with these people’s symptoms. We also see and hear members of this community talk about how electronic devices hurt their minds and bodies. They call themselves the ‘canaries in the coal mine’. Their community basically warns those of us in the outside world that we will show the same symptoms.
I commend how the film juggles the two communities in its tv-length time span. But that only makes me wish that the filmmakers expand on both subjects. Its depiction of the electronically sensitive people is also problematic. Sure, they don’t feel what we feel when we turn on the TV. But it’s as if the filmmakers second guess them.