THE SILENCE Is Good, But Don't Be Fooled Into Thinking It's 'Great' By Stylish Visuals
Feb 26, 2014
It would seem that murder mysteries have been around perhaps as long as the Earth has housed mankind. Because of this singular truth, the only way modern storytellers can truly distinguish one gruesome tale from the next is, largely, the presentation – how it happened, why it happened, when it happened – as well as a healthy consideration to making it as stylish as Hell. Why? Well, that’s because visual style has a lot of appeal! Critics love cinema style. Academics will have students study it for years. Audiences will accept that in lieu of a convincing plot, largely because their attention spans don’t always fit well into 90-minute packages; consequently, style distracts them from some of the more questionable particulars of an otherwise routine tale.
If I sound more than a bit cynical, that’s because I am. I don’t know how many people THE SILENCE fooled, but – by the looks of its festival acclaim – it looks like that number was quite large.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “A young girl is brutally murdered in a wheat field on a hot summer day in 1986. 23 years later, a 13 year-old girl disappears in similar circumstances, leading the police to suspect the same killer may be at work. As the retired investigator of the earlier case joins a widowed young detective to delve into the mystery of the parallel crimes, the parents of the missing girl, the mother of the original victim, and an accomplice to the 1986 killing all have their worlds begin to crumble as they are drawn deeper into a web of guilt, despair, and uncertainty.”
THE SILENCE is one of those thrillers that tries ridiculously hard to convince you that it’s much more profound than it is. Director Baran Bo Odar attempts this by packing it to the gills with some accomplished wizardry and stylish visuals, but, by the picture’s end, a thinking viewer (I like to think I am) easily realizes this was little more than a run-of-the-mill murder mystery with nothing more than a clever twist in its fabric. To be perfectly honest, that twist even defies convention – the killer would use yet another murder to draw an old friend out of the woodwork … because he was lonely and wanted to simply ‘catch up’ on old times? Well, that has to be the dumbest murderer on record, so far as I’m concerned.
Now – that said – that doesn’t mean that THE SILENCE is a bad film; it’s far from ‘bad.’ There are parts of it that are quite good, quite admirable, and quite chilling. (The product packaging insists the flick is a “first-rate thriller,” and, having seen more than my share of thrillers I can assure you it isn’t.) What Odar and his cast cull together is a satisfying rumination on murder and its effects/affects on the living. It serves up a very effective snapshot of the totality of the grieving process – the victim’s family, the investigators, the worried townspeople, etc. It mildly pulls back the veneer that so many motion pictures have wrapped around the procedural to show the bitter honest, that police work is far from glamorous, that often times there are no answers strong enough to reconcile events, and that more often than not one’s personal observations about one particular crime can be misplaced while another’s gets entirely dismissed.
It’s definitely worth a view, though I strongly believe it had an inspiration that approached ridiculousness. Don’t be deluded into thinking it serves up any answers, though … a message that apparently was left unheard by the folks who made it.
THE SILENCE (2010) is produced by Cine Plus Film/Produktion, Luthje & Schneider Film Produktion, Das Kleine Fernsehspiel (ZDF), and ARTE. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Music Box Films. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a German-spoken-language release with English subtitles available (I never checked if there was an English-dubbed track, mostly because English-dubbed tracks rarely interest me). As for the technical specifications, this is a very smartly made film with high quality sights and sounds available from start-to-finish. If it’s special features you want, then you’re looking forward to two short films (also by Baran Bo Odar) as well as some cast & crew interviews regarding the main feature, as well as the theatrical trailer. A nice package, indeed.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. THE SILENCE’s primary flaws have to do with tone, pacing, and (dare I say?) its own arrogance. Writer/director Baran Bo Odar expects audiences to believe a fairly incredulous motivation was behind the second murder (the first one was an obvious crime of passion), and then smothers the viewers with enough style and pretentiousness to make them believe all of this is much more important than your average CSI-weekly procedural. Sadly, it isn’t, though there are some nice performances involving the subplots. The main plot? Been there, done that … erm … I think “seen that” is what I meant to say.
In the interests of fairness, I had reached out to MUSIC BOX FILMS for a copy of THE SILENCE (2010) which they happily provided directly to me after their publicity firm never issued one but contacted me via email demanding a link to my review. (I told that bittie where to get off.) Now THAT’s a twist worthy of a film, more so than this go’round.