It’s no surprise that Baran Bo Odar
cites Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder as
a source of inspiration for his film, The
Silence. The methodical dissection of a murder and the obsessive
personalities associated with uncovering the truth are recurring trends found
in both pictures. But while Joon-ho displayed a guided force in his narrative
structure, Odar opts to employ various perspectives, from that of a murderer,
to the victim, to the detective, to the accomplice, etc, in an effort to
construct a tapestry of psychological trauma. It’s a noble effort, though one
that serves to jeopardize the intensity of its intended emotional impact. In a
film that makes a conscious effort to evoke a measure of sympathy for both
victim and assailant, the result is something of a mixed bag where no singular
idea registers as particularly insightful.
Like films of its type, such as David Fincher’s Zodiac and the aforementioned Memories of Murder, The Silence lingers on images of clouds and landscape as a means of inducing the strains that time has on its characters. And time ends up being a very palpable aspect of The Silence’s mounting tension. Rigid symmetry and polished images populate the film’s initial sequence, as Peer (Ulrich Thomsen) and Timo (Wotan Mohring) commit a child murder. Timo, distraught over the situation, flees. The films moves 23 years forward as Odar introduces various characters, one after the other. Quite disorienting to start, Odar manages the sprawl, opting to allow the images to eventually coalesce even as the audience is left somewhere in the dark. Eventually, the various characters don’t so much intersect, but rather become afflicted by the impact of loss.
The Silence perhaps takes in a bit too much at once, embracing various narrative clichés while never truly delving into one particular perspective for an extended period of time. The somber tone is perfectly realized by Odar’s limber direction, with its gruesome subject matter emphasized for its emotional gravity rather than ever exploited for cheap thrills. But for a film so intent on positing bold psychological truths on the nature of death and loneliness, Odar falters. The various narrative strands are cut in an arbitrary fashion with the film’s climax lacking any true sense of revelation. The Silence is the sort of debut effort that certainly warrants a look, though one can look at its aforementioned predecessors for a cleaner and more efficient thrill.