The Sound of Insects (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 24, 2011 by  

Poetic, esoteric and profound! “The Sound of Insects” is one of those films that stays within you.  Unique and definitely worth watching!

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DVD TITLE: The Sound of Insects


DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color and B&W, 16:9

COMPANY: Lorber Films



Directed by Peter Liechti

Written by Peter Liechti

Based on the novel by Masahiko Shimada

Produced by Peter Liechti

Executive Produced by Franziska Reck

Music by Christoph Homberer, Norbert Moslang, Martin Schutz

Cinematography by Matthias Kalin, Peter Liechti

Edited by Tania Stocklin


Peter Mettler

Alexander Tschernek

Winner of the European Film Academy Documentary 2009 award “for its skillful exploration of minimalistic means to create an extraordinary visual story between life and death.”

In a remote wintry forest, a hunter discovers the mummified corpse of a 40-year-old man. A diary is found near the body, detailing the man’s everyday thoughts as he commits suicide through self-imposed starvation. Based on an incredible true story, and adapted from the novella “Until I am a Mummy“ by Shimada Masahiko, Peter Liecthi’s THE SOUND OF INSECTS is a stunning investigation into the mystery of the man’s enigmatic self-destructive motivations. Taking on his point-of-view, the film presents the notebook entries as stream-of-consciousness musings on the world around him as his body dissipates, an attempt to piece together the causes of his disillusionment. With luminous cinematography of the vaulting trees that surround his tented tomb, and of hallucinated memories of the cities and people he left behind, THE SOUND OF INSECTS is a hypnotic and transcendent meditation on how the renunciation of life paradoxically reveals its beauty.

Poetic, esoteric and profound! “The Sound of Insects” is one of those films that stays within you because you feel the emotions of one man’s suffering while trying to end his life.  You won’t see anything like it in any other film, so I hope one can experience this film and be entranced by it.

There are not many films that showcase suicide and the daily suffering one goes through.  A film that is not about the focus on death but the life before death.

This is the premise of “The Sound of Insects”, a film directed by Peter Liechti and is an adaptation of the 1994 short story “Miira Ni Naru Made (Until I Am a Mummy) by Masahiko Shimada.

Not necessarily a documentary or a film in a traditional sense but “The Sound of Insects” is actually based on a true story of a man who wrote a diary describing his own suicide through self-starvation.  How much of the actual diary that was carried over to Shimada’s book was true or made for the novel, no one knows nor does director Peter Liechti care.

His goal was to take the esoteric and profound words of one’s life before death and bring it to the big screen and sure enough, critics responded and the film would win a European Film Award.

I know that by calling this a film, one may think of a film such as Louis Malle’s “A Fire Within”.  But this is not the case.  Think about it as a juxtaposition of imagery and sound with narration of the diary by the man who is going through his suicide by starving himself.

Peter Liechti takes Shimada’s novel and applies it to an anonymous man who fled to the Austrian wetlands and was later found mummified after quite time has past.

Why was this man dead?  Because of the ice cold, the body was preserved and its evident that he was not a very old man.  Possibly a man in his 40’s.

The only thing that could provide details on the man’s death is a diary that was found near the body.  And thus the story begins as the man writes about beginning his journey of starvation to end his life.

Throughout the film, we don’t know the motive of why he is killing himself nor does it matter.  We just know what he had experienced day after day and as each day passes, we get to understand that the inevitable death the man was expecting within a week or more has been elongated to not more days, no more weeks but a few months.  Each entry entered and narrated is sure to keep one entranced by the film.

Once again, “The Sound of Insects” which derives from the environment that the man is accustomed to hearing, the film is not about death but about life.  Liechti does a fantastic job in capturing the mood of loneliness, despair, disillusion through its visuals and sound.

And it strikes one’s heart to hear the narrator talk each day about their experience of starvation, losing weight and suffering incredible amounts of pain but most shockingly, death does not come immediately.  In the case of the suicide artist, it’s the pain that he feels from not eating and just the mere thought of food hurts him.

The man talks about looking sickly, losing all fat and his body eating itself up to the point to where he lacks control of his body to a day he sees a centipede crawling on him and he thinks of a news report of a child who was locked up by his parents and had to eat bugs and mice to keep alive and while he talks about this, we see imagery of stuffed animals being hung up on wires.  When he talks about the rain and storms, we see rain hitting a plastic tarp to seeing lighting light up in the background.

We know that being in the middle of the wetlands, the only noises that the man would hear are insects and during raintime, raindrops, lightning and possible other noises such as planes flying over.  But the combination of these elements and the juxtaposition of imagery, sound and narration is what gives the film its efficacy of being poetic and artistic.

“The Sound of Insects” will be available on DVD courtesy of Lorber films.


“The Sound of Insects” is presented in 16:9, color and B&W. There is no protagonist but what we get are images and video.

According to filmmaker Peter Liechtie, the first two narratives of “The Sound of Insects” were shot on film and the introspection shot on Super-8 which include images that Liechti has kept in his Super-8 for the last 20 years.

Audio is presented in English.


There are no special features but Lorber Films trailers.

Watching and listening to “The Sound of Insects”, its a narration that haunts you.

When we think of suicide, it’s one person’s quick way of ending their life and we are used to hearing about it on television and newspapers but what we don’t hear are people who try to commit suicide, in this case through starvation and not knowing what to expect.

We often know through letters left behind of those who have went through with their suicide of the pain they lived in their life but with “The Sound of Insects”, its the day-by-day narration of what the man committing suicide is feeling and experiencing at that minute.

We can easily relate or understand the concept of one not fitting in but we are not prepared to hear the self-torture that one will experience.  The man committing suicide doesn’t know what he will experience and what will happen.  In his mind, stop eating and see how long it will take death to claim your life.  But the way its narrated, there is this sense of optimism that death will come shortly.

He enjoys listening to Bach and just waits for death to come and claim him.  But in the case of this man killing himself, we see him suffering as days past, then weeks and as morbid as it may sound, it’s that final month of life where we see his mind start to question the pain he has put himself through.

He talks about the incredible pain he is feeling, the stomach cramps and bodily changes that he experiences.  From the loss of fat on his body to even losing his penis, most people want to end their life quickly and not suffer.  This man is suffering but you know that it was his plan to die and escape this world.

But with the agony of extreme pain and suffering and second guessing himself if what he is doing is wrong… We know he died but we know that he did have doubt in his mind at times.  The man never expected that suicide would be so painful.

But through the diary, we learn how slowly, his pain continues to get worse and worse and each time we think he is going to die, he lives another day.  What irony in that he chose a path to die but yet, death will not come to him sooner as he had hoped and must go through pain and more excruciating pain.

The DVD release of “The Sound of Insects” is primarily a barebones release but for any cineaste who has been wanting something new and different, “The Sound of Insects” may be what you are looking for.  I have never come across a film like this in my lifetime.  Some may compare the film to the uniqueness of Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” or “Sans Soleil” and I can see the similarities in terms of narration but “The Sound of Insects” is different.  You just don’t see these type of films pop up and you have to give credit to Peter Liechti for pursuing and creating a film like this.  It was a very good adaptation and creative interpretation of Shimada’s “Miira Ni Naru Made”.

Poetic, esoteric and profound! “The Sound of Insects” is one of those films that stays within you.  Unique and definitely worth watching!

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