The Silence (2010)
Review by Jude Felton
Not all films are designed to leave you feeling good. Some, regardless of genre, make no attempt to offer any respite from their downbeat tales, and then there is The Silence (Das Letzte Schweigen). This German production, which is directed by Swiss-born Baran bo Odar, tells a riveting story, but also one that will offer no respite once the final credits roll. The Silence will not leave you feeling good, about anything, but do not let that dissuade you from watching this gem of a movie.
Admittedly I had not heard of The Silence up until a few days before watching the film. It was made back in 2010 but is only now seeing a U.S. release. The stunning poster, which you can see above, caught my eye; its savage simplicity beckoned me in, curious to see what this tale would deliver, and what it delivers is an incredibly good, yet bleak, tale of murder and abduction.
In 1986 a young girl, Pia, is out cycling. She never makes it to her destination because she is followed, attacked and murdered; her body is disposed of as if a piece of trash. The crime remains unsolved when the film fast forwards to the present day and another young girl, Sinikka, also goes missing, with only her bike being found. To add to this terrible event, her disappearance occurs on exactly the same day, 23 years later, that Pia went missing. Could there be a connection?
The Silence follows many different plot strands, from the two men that were involved with Pia’s murder, Pia’s mother, Sinikka’s parents and the police who are assigned to the case. One of the detectives himself is trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife, and another recently retired officer finds the case eerily familiar, having been assigned to Pia’s case decades earlier.
So, we follow these intertwining strands hoping for the best, yet deep down expecting the worst, and The Silence really does deliver. Baran bo Odar, on his film debut, delivers a visually impressive movie, but it is the performances from the entire cast that really elevate the film into something special. The pain, suffering and frustration are all too plain to see from all involved, and the cast flat-out deliver the goods.
The 2 hour running time never drags, with the film being perfectly paced and edited. Even when nothing much is happening I found myself gripped and eager to find out exactly what was going on, and how events would be resolved. When the final reveal does eventual happen it comes with a sense of real sadness which will devastate in its pointlessness.
Don’t read that as a negative though, far from it, as The Silence is a subtle movie dealing with a very painful subject matter, and it’s one that realizes that not all endings need to have bombast and wonderment; sometimes they just end in frustrating tragic ways.
At times The Silence reminded me of the television show The Killing, without the politics, not only due to the subject matter, but also the visual style. This may be a German film but it definitely had a Scandinavian feel to it, which was due in part to the cold detachment of the story.
Without a doubt I recommend The Silence, as it is a terrific movie with very little working against it. However, just be prepared to watch a very downbeat movie that might well leave you feeling as cold as the subject matter. There are no upbeat moments in this film (why should there be?), instead just a wonderfully crafted exercise in tension and loss.
The Silence is released theatrically by Music Box Films on March 8th.