Monday, August 5, 2013

Baran bo Odar Stuns Into The Silence

The Silence
If you can see past the repugnance of the subject matter, the slow burn suspense of the German-made psychological thriller The Silence will stun you into a different kind of silence. Despite never shooting anything grotesque or gratuitous, Baran bo Odar knows how to make an audience feel uncomfortable.

It is the relentless effectiveness of what is unseen that makes The Silence a masterpiece of a foreign film. Presented in German, with English subtitles, The Silence hits on the same subject matter that underpins The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy without any action or graphically painful jolts.

The unsettling nature of it relies almost exclusively around the casual nature of the crime and casual impact that it has on a carousel of broken people, indirect victims who are unable to resolve their loss. Some of them are swept up in suffering in the present. Others have been victims for 23 years.

The Silence is the story of two murdered girls, 23 years apart.

At the onset, the film begins in the past with two men watching a 16mm film in an apartment building. The curtains are drawn and the film runs out. As it does, the two men step out for a hot summer's drive.

As they drive outside of the city and into a densely wooded rural area, they pass a girl riding her bike beside the road. When she takes a turn down a dirt road, the car passes her but then slows to a stop, backs up, and begins to follow her. Even a glimpse of it in the trailer seals the scene.

It is this intensely creepy scene that sets the pace of the entire film. It's not overt actions — the driver hailing her to ask a question or chasing her into a wheat field — that gets under the skin. It is the near-paralyzed disbelief of passenger Timo Friedrich (Wotan Wilke Mohring) that steals the scene.

Whether Friedrich meant to be an explicit accomplice or is passive and complicit in the crime is left largely unanswered. He neither helps the girl nor killer Peer Sommer (Ulrich Thomsen). When the pair return to the apartment complex, Friedrich wastes no time escaping on a bus with all of his possessions.

The past becomes irreparably connected to the present by a time, place, and people. 

Twenty-three years later, Elena Lange (Katrin Sass) is still grieving over the loss of her daughter Pia (Helene Doppler) and retiring detective Krischan Mittich (Burghart Klaussner) is still haunted by never having solved the case. And it isn't long before their wounds are reopened as a new girl, 13-year-old Sinikka (Anna-Lena Klenke), goes missing.

While there are several detectives assigned to the case, perhaps none are as striking as David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg). Although he is still an emotional train wreck after losing his wife to cancer five months earlier, Jahn returns to make Mittich's farwell party. He and his new partner, Jana Glaser (Jule Bowe), are assigned the missing girl as his first case back. They, along with the Weghamms (Roeland Wiesnekker and Karoline Eichhorn) become the de facto present day counterparts to the crime in 1986.

Along with them, Friedrich is also tied to the crime. Despite his overwhelming sense of regret and remorse, he had restarted his life a successful architect. He is married and has two children, a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, of his own.

Baran bo Odar
The new crime, mimicking the old one right down to the last detail, hits him deeply and with immediacy. Like receiving a message in a bottle or a festering time capsule, he is sent reeling. He calls in sick from work and tells his wife he has to work, buying a few days in order to confront the past.

All in all, this is a stunning start for Swiss-born Baran bo Odar. It also seems a shame that his debut took so long to be distributed stateside because he is clearly among the up-and-coming foreign directors to watch. He was born in 1978 and is best known for his commercial work and award-winning short films.

The Silence By Baran Bo Odar Sticks At 5.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The movie is based on the novel Das Schweigen by Jan Costin Wagner. While the film only managed 11 theaters at its widest release in the United States, the unrated film continues to make waves as a unsettling summer sleeper between digital downloads and post-theatrical releases.

Almost of all its second-life marketing relies on nothing more than reviews and word of mouth. Just recently, it won gold at the New York Festivals for best drama. This second life run is largely related to Movie Box Films releasing it on Blu-ray for the first time. Currently, you can find The Silence on Amazon or download and/or rent it from iTunes. The film is also listed at Barnes & Noble.
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