Judge Gordon Sullivan has been rendered mute.
Our reviews of A Film Trilogy By Ingmar Bergman: Criterion Collection (published October 27th, 2003), The Silence (1998) (published September 13th, 2005), and The Silence (2010) (published August 2nd, 2013) are also available.
"An utterly mesmerizing thriller"
The original German title of The Silence is Das letzte Schweigen, which a word-for-word translation would render as "The Last Silence" or "The Final Silence." Strangely, the original novel on which the film is based is actually titled The Silence, so it's strange that the title of the German film diverged from the novel. But, it's a good thing that the English title went back to the novel, as The Silence does more to signal the ambiguity that is at the heart of this tense little crime thriller from Baran bo Odar. Though it's not always a pleasant ride, fans of moody Germanic crime writing will enjoy this slice of moral ambiguity.
Twenty three years ago, a young girl was found raped and murdered in a field. Today, so has another one. This shocking crime brings together the retired detective (Burghart Klaussner, Good Bye Lenin!) who couldn't solve the first cast with a younger detective (Sebastian Blomberg, Anatomy) willing to throw himself into the case to escape the grief caused by the death of his wife.
The basic idea of The Silence reminded me a bit of David Fincher's Zodiac. In both cases we see maladjusted men bonding over the investigation into a series of horrible deaths. Of course Zodiac doesn't have a cold-case aspect to it, but The Silence combines a contemporary investigation into the murder of a young girl with flashbacks to an original crime. Through these flashbacks we learn who is responsible in the present, and it's entirely a messy affair.
The film excels at two things. The first is dwelling in the messiness of crime. The Silence is not a film in which perfect cops chase after black-hatted bad guys and win the day through brilliant deduction. I don't want to give too much away, but this is not an ode to the greatness of the police. Nor is it afraid to point out that even the most heinous criminals are human beings too, as horrifying as that revelation can be.
The second thing the film excels at is gathering together a bunch of excellent actors to bring the messiness of crime to light. The characters are complex and well-drawn, and these actors commit to them despite the often-sordid nature of the revelations about them. Pretty much every one in the film is a failure or a creep, but this group goes all in to portray a cast of creepy characters. What's not ambiguous at all is the quality of this Blu-ray disc. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is generally excellent. The frame shows lots of detail and well-saturated color, with black levels that are both consistent and deep. There are a couple of artifacts that show up, especially during some panning shots, but overall this is a fine transfer that shows off the film's excellent visual design. The DTS-5.1 track does a fine job of demonstrating the dynamic range available on the format. Much of the film is quiet, even contemplative, but there are numerous moments where a louder sound will intrude, and both are well balanced. The audio track is in the film's original language of German, and English subtitles are included.
Extras start with 10 minutes of cast interviews, where the actors talk about their roles and working on the production. We also get the film's trailer. The other extras are a pair of short films by Baran bo Odar. His first short, Quietsch, is an eight minute odyssey into tryptich video as we watch three screens interact. Then, we get Under the Sun, an exploration of a young boy's coming-of-age in a dream/nightmare. This one is a little less than an hour, and shows that Odar has a pretty vast store of visual skills to call on for further films.
With a film like The Silence, which opens with the rape and murder of a young girl, there's always the danger that viewers will sink into the pit of horror with little to show for it. For many viewers that will be the case…I don't want to spoil anything, but The Silence is not a film where the good guys ride off into the sunset (if you can even figure out who the good guys are in the film). Some viewers will no doubt be left with an icky feeling after watching The Silence, and even more might feel cheated that the film doesn't take a strong stand of condemnation against some of its more heinous characters.
The Silence is a fascinating, though not altogether entertaining example of the ways in which the thriller genre is evolving. It boasts an excellent cast and a strong visual scheme, both of which are given their due on this Blu-ray release. Fans of the darker side of the crime story are encouraged to give this one a rental.
Unlike most of its characters, The Silence is not guilty.
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