The Silence

April 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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I have something of an ongoing debate with a friend about what is/is not Film Noir.  He would argue that it is defined by the look of the film: black and white, dark sets, dingy cities, night scenes, rain and long shadows.  I have argued that it is more defined by the tone of the film: a crime story with a cynical take on human nature.  Which is more Noir: “Bound” or “The Man Who Wasn’t There?”  Well, you can argue that amongst yourselves.  What I can tell you about “The Silence” is that this German film, by director/writer Baran bo Odar, kept reminding me of the Danish t.v. series, “The Killing.”  Their tones and how they unfold feel remarkably similar.  It starts with the murder of a young girl and then, twenty-three years later, the disappearance of another one in much the same way.  Like any good cop tale, you have the requisite off-kilter but brilliant detective with his own issues, the retired detective who is haunted by the last case, and the lazy by-the-numbers boss.  You also have mountains of tension, sometimes built by a heavy-handed (but effective) score but often built by the slow unraveling of a tense story.  Bo Odar paces the film very well, kicking up the momentum again just as it is starting to flag but never being guilty of rushing to action the way many mainstream films can.  He shows the same cleverness (and slight heavy-handedness) with his color palate; the film is very monochromatic (virtually everything is in various shades of beige, brown, tope, gold or occasional blue-greys) with the exception of everything associated with the crimes.  Those items are all bright red (a car, bike, dress, even the police file on the case); the first victim’s mother wears burgundy and crimson; the father of the missing girl wears light pink.  This was a bit of a conceit that some might find distracting but I enjoyed it as the intrusion of color tended to shock the surrounding environment.  The acting was strong enough, especially on the part of the mother of the first missing girl, who seemed to embody sadness on a bone-deep level.  The story had twists and turns that kept me interested but none of them seemed contrived.  It is as its best in its final scenes and ends leaving the audience unsettled.  Is it Noir?  I think so.

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