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A young girl who is brutalized and murdered on a hot summer day by Peer as his helpless friend Timo watches. The unresolved crime yields two decades of grief, guilt and obsession in the lives of everyone connected to the victim. But when a 13-year-old girl goes missing 23 years later—on the same day and the very same spot as the original murder—the police suspect that the same killer may have resurfaced.
For more about The Silence and the The Silence Blu-ray release, see the The Silence Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 24, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Katrin Saß, Sebastian Blomberg, Burghart Klaußner
Director: Baran bo Odar
» See full cast & crew
The Silence Blu-ray Review
Subtract Ingmar Bergman, but add in even more angst.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 24, 2013
The Hays Code may seem laughable to us now, but for decades it made sure that the forces of justice always prevailed and that bad guys (and/or gals) got their due. When the code was abandoned in 1968 for the rating system which has remained in one form or another ever since, it was supposed to give filmmakers more latitude to express themselves freely, though of course as early rated films like Midnight Cowboy proved, a whole host of new problems ensued, mostly to do with arguments over what required this or that rating, and how the more problematic ratings (namely R and especially X) would cause repercussions at the box office. There certainly was more freedom to explore moral ambiguity, however, and the film world is rife with examples of questionable activity never really reaping its just rewards (like, say, imprisonment) in scores of films released from the late sixties onward. The Silence is a 2010 German feature which didn't have to navigate the swirling waters of the American ratings system, but it, too, offers a glut of morally ambiguous characters and it ends on a decidedly unresolved note, with the perpetrator of two horrible crimes dealing with some personal anguish (not even necessarily directly related to the crimes themselves) but no criminal indictment. Those who want their bad guys bound and trussed and ready for delivery to the criminal justice system will find The Silence an even more disturbing experience than those who are more tolerant of this ostensibly more realistic approach to filmmaking. However, even those in the latter camp are going to find The Silence disturbing, for it wends through a maze of deeply disturbed characters (and not just the major culprit), weaving a rather complex story of grief, denial, murder and, just for good measure, child porn.
The Silence plays out in two time frames, including a late eighties summer where Peer (Ulrich Thomsen), a groundskeeper at an apartment complex, befriends nerdy math student Timo (Wotan Wilke Möhring). The film is deliberately nonlinear and introduces elements out of order, with a shocking murder coming first, and back story being filled in later, but over the course of the film it becomes obvious that Peer has seemed to recognize a fellow traveler in Timo in the troubling world of pedophilia. Peer introduces Timo to his collection of disturbing hard core child pornography. After watching a film one day, Peer and Timo take off in a car where Peer notices a young girl bicycling down a dirt road through an impossibly gorgeous wheat field. He attacks and ultimately kills the girl while Timo watches in shock. Later, Peer wraps the body in cloths and dumps it in a lake. Timo runs away and jumps on a bus, ostensibly never to be heard from again.
The second main time frame of The Silence is "current day", where we're introduced to some mentally unbalanced policemen who have become ensnared in the long ago murder, though for different reasons. Krischan Mittich (Burghart Klaussner) is the now retired cop who investigated the murder and was never able to solve the mystery of who killed little Pia (as we come to learn the poor girl's name was). He is friends with young detective David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg), a really unbalanced man attempting to recover from the recent death of his wife from cancer. When Krischan shows David his old files on Pia's murder, the two realize suddenly that it's the same day of the year when Pia was murdered over two decades earlier, something that becomes relevant when another young girl's bike and backpack are found the next day in exactly the same spot that Pia's items had been discovered so very long ago. Has another girl been murdered by the same person? Why would there be such a long gap between the killings?
We're reintroduced to Timo, who is now the very model of a normal suburban husband and father, with two young children of his own. When he catches a news report about the new disappearance of the second girl and the discovery of her bike and backpack in the gorgeous wheat field, it obviously triggers what had been a deeply tamped down emotional response over his long ago complicity in illicit activity. That sets Timo off on a journey of discovery—both to come to terms with his own failings, and to eventually find and confront Peer. Meanwhile, David has been called in to investigate this newest crime—if indeed it is a crime—battling a disbelieving superior who does not want him "collaborating" with Krischan. Krischan has himself started a romantic interlude with Pia's still grieving mother, Elena (Katrin Sass). The media hoopla surrounding the second girl's disappearance soon ensnares Krischan, Elena, as well as the shocked and devastated parents of the second girl.
The Silence might be best thought of as a kind of "anti-procedural". After all, we know who the murdered of Pia is from the get go, and therefore the only question remaining is, did Peer also kill the second girl, and why? What the film is really focusing on is a series of characters all coming to terms with various disruptions. David's dealing with the death of his wife, Krischan is dealing with a case he could never solve, Elena is dealing with the murder of Pia, and Timo is dealing with decades of guilt for having just sat there while a murder was committed and, also, his guilt for being attracted to child porn to begin with. This is obviously not a bunch of "happy campers", and it gives The Silence a really dour, depressing mood most of the time.
The film has an almost unbearably claustrophobic atmosphere, especially with regard to Timo, who is obviously a deeply troubled man unable to cope with the ramifications of his past. But aside from one pregnant policewoman, there is a rather notable dearth of well adjusted people in this film, making it almost carnival like at times, as we careen from depressive story to depressive story (at one point David awakens from a terrifying dream and we're privy to the fact that he dresses up in his dead wife's clothes). Nonetheless, The Silence is often incredibly compelling, a slowly churning story of fate twisting several lives together in unexpected ways. For a supposed murder mystery, it's surprisingly low key, a film built out of stolen glances rather than traditional thriller elements. The fact that "justice" is not only blind, but almost willfully inept, in The Silence only adds to the film's impact and disturbing demeanor.
The Silence Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Silence is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Music Box Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Aside from one or two weird anomalies, this is a beautifully sharp and well detailed presentation that boasts brilliantly suffused color and some amazing depth of field in the many outdoor location shots. There are some minor but very odd artifacts, however, including two right off the bat as the film opens on a shot of two doors. Very prevalent banding accompanies the fade in and then there are inexplicable distortions that occur that almost resemble tracking problems from the halcyon days of VCR. There are also some very minor stability issues with some of the panning shots of trees, where a combination of aliasing and minimal judder contribute to a kind of jittery look. Otherwise, though, this is a sterling presentation that benefits from Odar's fine visual sense. The image is generally very sharp and well defined, with good consistent contrast and deep convincing black levels.
The Silence Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Silence features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in the original German. This is a surprisingly quiet film, where even a lot of the dialogue is spoken in hushed, almost reverential, tones. But there's some surprising immersion here, courtesy of some great ambient environmental noises (the flutter of breezes through the leaves and the wheat out in the fields is especially expressive). Dialogue, while often on the soft side, is very cleanly and clearly presented. Dynamic range is wide, though in spurts. The film will trundle along in a very meditative way and then suddenly explode once or twice in bursts of more intense sonic activity.
The Silence Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Silence Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Silence is not an easy film to like, let alone love, and yet it's a profoundly disturbing effort that plays upon several fears of any parent to an alarmingly effective degree. It's hard to warm up to any of these characters, since at least a couple of them are pretty abhorrent and almost all of them have too many tics to list. It's also a bit odd that there's no real mystery in the film, but that also perhaps points out just how skillful Odar is in creating a stifling feeling of suspense, when the killer is identified up front. This is a completely atypical murder mystery thriller, and as such defies typical pigeonholing, which is probably its most salient saving grace. This Blu-ray features generally excellent video and audio and comes with some intriguing (if opaque) supplementary material. Recommended.
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The Silence Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Silence Blu-ray - April 19, 2013
Music Box Films has announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of writer/director Baran bo Odar's The Silence, starring Ulrich Thomsen (The Celebration), Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader Meinhof Complex), Katrin Sass (Good Bye, Lenin!) and Burghart Klaussner (The ...
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