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The Quiet Room is a 1996 Australian drama film directed by Rolf de Heer.[1] It was entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.[2][3]

The Quiet Room
Film poster
Directed byRolf de Heer
Produced byRolf de Heer
Written byRolf de Heer
StarringCeline O'Leary
CinematographyTony Clark
Edited byTania Nehme
Release date
  • 14 March 1996 (1996-03-14)
Running time
93 minutes



The Quiet Room centers on an unnamed little girl and how she deals with her parents' crumbling marriage. The film focuses entirely on her point of view and although she is silent for most of the film, we constantly hear her thoughts, sometimes in a stream of consciousness barrage of voice-over. The little girl has chosen to become mute as a way to protest her parents' constant fighting. Her parents, more concerned with their own issues, believe their daughter is just going through a phase. The film shows how even very young children can be extremely cognizant of problems that are going on in their own homes even when their parents try hard to shield them from everything.

The girl learns other ways to communicate with her parents. Through her drawings she expresses her desire of owning a dog and how she believes they will be happier as a family if they lived in the country instead of in their tiny apartment in the city. During flashbacks, we see when her parents were happy and still in love. The girl, perhaps intentionally as a way to cope, confuses tenses (thinking "I'm little now..." instead of "when I was little..."). But even then, she catches glimpses of her parents' dysfunctional relationship, such as when her father spits in her mother's face after she yells at him. Her parents don't notice she is in the room but the memory leaves a long lasting impression on her. In the present, her anxiety manifests itself through waking nightmares where she imagines wild animals escaping from the zoo and coming to get her. At the end of the film, she hides herself in her parents' wardrobe to escape their bickering. After a while, she falls asleep in an uncomfortable position. When she wakes up, she is too stiff to move. Unable to escape on her own, the little girl finally breaks down and calls out for help and her parents, who had thought she ran away, rush to her aid.

The girl gives her parents one last drawing. In it, she successfully conveys her feelings of being overwhelmed by her parents' constant fighting and how she feels less motivated to speak the more she hears them argue. As she hands it to them, she says, "This is how I feel. That's how you make me feel." Finally hearing their daughter for the first time and realizing the effect their behavior has on hers, her parents announce that they're going to move to the country. When they also promise her a dog, she becomes so ecstatic that she starts singing incessantly and dancing around her room.


Box officeEdit

The Quiet Room grossed $57,245 at the box office in Australia.[4]


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen. "NY Times: The Quiet Room". NY Times. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Quiet Room". Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  3. ^ Andrew L Urban, "De Heer, Rolf : Colouring the Room", Urban Cinefile accessed 11 November 2012
  4. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office

External linksEdit