Have you ever watched a movie where you feel like you’re in trouble? Where it does such a good job of portraying the badness in a deed that it feels realistic? After the first four minutes of the Baran Bo Odar ‘s “The Silence” I felt as if I had committed a crime just by watching the film. There are shades of “The Vanishing” and “8MM” which can tell you what type of movie you are getting yourself into.
When the film starts out it is 1986 and we see two men in a darkly lit room watching footage of a barely adolescent girl on a reel to reel projector. The men are Peer Sommer brilliantly played by Ulrich Thomsen and Timo Friedrich (Wotan Wilke Mohring). You get a sinister vibe by the way they are watching it and in the next scene they take part in brutally raping and killing a barely adolescent girl. Peer commits it all while Timo watches in complacent horror. The entire scene is shown while some of the action is obscured by not artistically shot wheat stalks. Soon after, Timo jumps on a bus with a shocked Peer running behind in bewilderment. We then jump ahead 23 years and are introduced to two of the cops that were assigned to the case. One is just returning back to work after losing his wife to cancer. He is on edge a lot but is happy to be back at work. Soon, another crime is commited in the exact same place as the earlier one 23 years ago with almost the exact same details. This starts off a confluence of events that reopen old wounds and brings back together previous relationships.
There are two crimes here, one being shown as it’s happening with no mystery in who does it, and the second where you find that the crime plays out exactly like the earlier one, but without knowing who committed it. This plot makes for an immensely intriguing story and I will say without spoiling anything the plot nicely brings the two crimes together. A large part of the film deals with people living with loss and incompleteness. There are many sides of the case and how it effects everyone involved, even 23 years later which is brought into realism by actress Katrin Sass as the grieving mother Elana Lange.
“The Silence” is a grim and moody film with long moments of contemplation. There is indeed much silence throughout often taking time to meditate on what is transpiring. Much screen time is dedicated to a character standing in a field or sitting in their car thinking about what is happening to them or what they have done. These times are accompanied by a natural soundtrack of wind, birds, traffic or whatever else happens to be around. This helps imbue the film with realism. Every time Ulrich Thomsen’s Peer is on screen there is a sense of dread and disgust. Not only is his acting spot on but the direction with which the actor is placed help it become a subtle and nuanced performance. Sebastian Blomberg’s performance at first seems slightly over the top but by the end you feel that he is a very passionate and animated individual. Katrin Sass’s Elana is the the strongest of the three as she conveys old wounds emerging from new circumstances. Her acting is never not believable. This is director Baran bo Odar’s first feature length film and it will be exciting to see what he does in the future depending on what he chooses for material. At the outset he seems to gravitate towards more serious topics, ones that other may not want to attempt.
Music Box Films uses a AVC encode for the 1080P image in it’s OAR of 2.35:1. There is a pervasive sun dried, sickly filter over the entire picture which is purely an aesthetic choice by the director. This does not affect the level of detail which is strong throughout. It’s not perfect as there are small moments of banding and aliasing however the beautiful cinematography does a good job of making these moments forgettable.
“The Silence” is given a German DTS-HD MA Audio 5.1 track that is as marvelous as it is subtle. Dialogue is clearly prioritized to the center speaker. As stated earlier, there are long moments of silence throughout the film and the silence itself if crystal clear. There is a violent act early on in the film that delivers a hit so clear, the crack sent shivers through me. With that there is an excellent use of rear speakers field with nature sounds like light breezes, animals and traffic. This is a well designed soundtrack which leaves the viewer with a great deal of immersion.
There are a small amount of features on the disc. First is a series of four short (two and a half minutes each) interviews with the main actors minus Thomsen. These are too short to be revelatory but there are some interesting tidbits. Next is a theatrical trailer for the film in HD. The real bonus treat here is an hour long short film by Baran Bo Odar entitled “Under the Sun”. Last, is another 8 minute experimental piece by Odar.
Music Box Film’s “The Silence” is a difficult film to recommend. On one hand, you have a well crafted mystery which recreates reality with impeccable nuanced detail. On the other, it’s so blunt in its realism that it is hard to find it satisfyingly entertaining. If you are not overly sensitive to crimes involving children then you should be able to extract the subdued beauty in a film like this. Others may just want to ignore it. Great audio and video make it a little easier to recommend.