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Le Silence de la Mer(1949)
Melville's extraordinary first feature, an adaptation of Vercors' classic novella about the French Resistance, is in effect a triangular drama in which two people don't speak. A German officer, convalescing from a wound, is billeted on an elderly Frenchman and his niece. Respecting their obstinate refusal to address the hated invader, he meets their silence with a series of monologues, apparently ignored, in which he recalls his life before the war and all the things he values; but what he reveals about himself causes the girl to fall in love, without being able to declare her feelings.
For more about Le Silence de la Mer and the Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray release, see Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 28, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Howard Vernon (I), Nicole Stéphane, Jean-Marie Robain, Ami Aaröe, Georges Patrix, Denis Sadier
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
» See full cast & crew
Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 28, 2012
Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la mer (1949) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; introduction to the film by Prof. Ginette Vincendeau; and Gaumont's new documentary film "Melville Out of the Shadows". The Blu-ray disc also arrives with a 56-page illustrated booklet featuring an extract from an article by Prof. Ginette Vincendeau's and an archival interview with Jean-Pierre Melville conducted by Rui Nogueira's. In French and German, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
A small village somewhere in France, 1941. A German officer (Howard Vernon) is billeted to the house of an elderly man (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stephanie). After he settles down, he tries to have a conversation with his hosts, but they remain silent and continue to live their lives as if he does not exist.
The officer is a kind and very intelligent man who is in love with French literature, art and music. He sees the war not as a tragedy but as the perfect opportunity for his country and France to unite, learn from each other and rebuild Europe. He understands that lives will be lost but believes that it is a price that must be paid.
Day after day the officer meets his hosts and talks to them about his life as a musician before the war, his conservative father, the French writers who made him fall in love with France. They listen carefully but never engage in a conversation with him.
Eventually, the elderly man begins to admire the officer's passion for France and its culture. His niece also falls in love with him. But they don't reveal their feelings to him. The officer also does not confront them because he understands perfectly well why they have chosen to remain silent.
Then, one day the officer is ordered to appear before his superiors in Paris. There, they reveal to him that they are planning to transform France – after they cleanse it, they will destroy its cultural heritage and national identity. Shocked and appalled, the officer immediately requests that he is transferred to the Eastern Front. Shortly after, he returns to the village and bids his hosts goodbye.
Based on the popular novel by Vercors (a pseudonym for French resistance fighter and writer Jean Bruller), Jean-Pierre Melville's first feature film Le Silence de la mer is widely regarded by many as one of the most important French films from the beginning of the century. It was completed in 1949, seven years after Vercors' book was secretly published in Nazi-occupied Paris.
The film is notably quiet and unusually lyrical. There are long noirish sequences in it that remind about Melville's chic gangster films where the camera moves slowly and carefully observes the main protagonists from afar. The atmosphere, however, is far more relaxed.
The overwhelming majority of the film takes place in a single room. The elderly man explains his decision to remain silent and shares his impressions of the officer in a series of monologues. Then the officer talks about the war, his love for France and his plans for the future. They never confront each other, but what is on display here is a clash of ideas.
Like the elderly man, who eventually begins to respect his guest, and his niece, who secretly falls in love with him, the officer undergoes a serious character transformation. When he first enters the house he is an enthusiastic and hopeful man who believes that the world is changing for the better; he is an idealist who has arrived in France to admire it, not to conquer it. After he returns from Paris, however, he is a different man; he looks defeated and sad because he has suddenly realized that he has been part of something terrible, something enormously tragic.
Mleville's Le Silence de la mer is the one and only French film about the Resistance that I have seen where not all Germans are portrayed as delusional monsters. This isn't to say that the film does not condemn them, it certainly does; but it also makes the clear distinction that at least some of them were truly unaware that they were being misled by their leaders. (For a contrasting point of view see Rene Clement's La bataille du rail).
Note: Le Silence de la mer had an enormous impact on a number of New Wave directors, including Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol, who later on attempted to imitate the simplicity of its narrative structure in their films.
Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la mer arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
The licensed from Gaumont high-definition transfer is very strong. Most close-ups, for instance, convey outstanding depth and clarity that are missing from Eureka Entertainment's DVD release of the film. Contrast levels are also stabilized and macroblocking patterns eliminated. Color grading is also superior - the variety of whites and grays look stable and natural while the blacks are well saturated but never looking boosted. There are no traces of excessive noise corrections. Naturally, grain is present throughout the entire film and appears properly resolved. There are no traces of post-production sharpening either. The high-definition transfer is also free of aliasing and banding patterns. Finally, aside from a few extremely mild (frame) transition fluctuations, which appear to have been inherited, there are also no stability issues to report in this review. All in all, this is a strong, very competent presentation of Le Silence de la mer. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (with portions of German). For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Understandably, the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has a rather limited dynamic amplitude. The dialog, however, is stable, crisp, and easy to follow. Background hiss is not an issue of concern here, but occasionally its presence can be felt. Edgar Bischoff's score has mostly a complimentary role, which the loseless track highlights well. There are no sync issues, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features included on this disc are perfectly playable on North American Blu-ray players, including the PS3.
Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jean-Pierre Melvile's Le Silence de la mer is a thought-provoking film which offers a balanced point of view that is rarely, if ever, present in films about the Resistance. What makes the film so fascinating to behold, however, is its simplicity and style, both of which will later on have a major impact on the French New Wave directors. Eureka Entertainment's presentation of the film is very impressive. The Blu-ray disc also contains a new French- made documentary about Le Silence de la mer and Jean-Pierre Melvile's legacy. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Le Silence de la Mer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Le Silence de la Mer Detailed - November 30, 2011
Independent British distributors Eureka Entertainment (Masters of Cinema) have detailed their upcoming Dual Format edition of Jean-Pierre Melville's (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge) classic Le Silence de la Mer (1949). The release is set to hit retail shelves on ...
• Pasolini, Melville, Imamura, Watkins, Cox, McCarey, and Hellman F... - October 4, 2011
Eureka Entertainment have revealed that they are getting ready to release a number of classic and cult films on Blu-ray: Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la Mer (1949), Pier Paolo Pasolini's Accattone (1961) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), Shohei ...
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