July 1, 2010 (Munich Film Festival)
March 8, 2013 (United States)
Directed by Baran bo Odar
Written by Baran bo Odar (Based on the novel by Jan Costin Wagner)
"The Silence" will trouble you with its intensity each second of its running time. There are few films capable of such power as this procedural of grief and guilt.
"The Silence" exploded on my radar a few weeks ago with an incredibly intriguing trailer (see it for yourself below). It sets up the murder of a young girl on July 8, 1986. Her bike was found in the woodland meadow outside a suburban town in Germany. 23 years later to the day a terribly similar crime occurs. It occurred to me while watching the dialogue-free trailer that no central character emerged, rather, it seemed to be an account of the many lives affected both then and now. As it turns out this is precisely how the film itself works itself out. Scenes cut back and forth between the victims, their families, the police detectives and the predators. It's hard to say whose movie this is, but if you consider the title it may give you a clue.
I've made a habit of taking notes when I watch films. I've noticed that the best of the best don't permit me to take many notes as they've grasped my attention entirely and I cannot afford to divert even a shred. I wrote only a few things down during my screening of "The Silence" because it held me in this manner, mostly in the throat and in the gut. I'm trying to think of a film that was this tense from the very beginning to the very end (maybe "Rec"?). Baran bo Odar is a new filmmaker to me. He wrote and directed "The Silence" which feels akin to a Kubrickian chronicle. There's more than one cue from "The Shining" (and even Fritz Lang's masterwork "M" now that I think about it) but Odar holds and plays his cards in an absorbing way that is all his own.
The film owes a lot of its tension to it's original soundtrack by Pas de Deux. It reminds me of the equally effective "mood music" as heard throughout Bong Joon-ho's "The Host." Speaking of the South Korean director, I dare propose that this may be the best crime drama I've seen since his impeccable "Memories of a Murder." Both films tackle depraved subject matter involving children as they depict troubled men trying to catch even more troubled men. While the perpetrators herein are not justified, there is a admirable choice to humanize them. Much of the film keeps you guessing, but I further appreciated it not being afraid to tie up all loose ends in a time when ambiguity seems to be a popular decision amidst the artful.
The compostions here are practically picture-perfect in every shot. The beginning moves in on two doors of an apartment complex, ultimately deciding upon one and leaving the other outside the frame (and outside this story). This 50/50 idea is visualized from the very beginning in a story where mourning parents and frustrated police chalk up the chances and put yellow tape around coincidences. I haven't even spoken of the performances. Not one disrupts the carefully woven tapestry of this storyline. We could call them all supporting players that hold up the thrilling and distressing wonder that this is. It's still earlier in 2013 but I reckon "The Silence" is going to make it onto my top films of the year list. Easily.