Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
02 April, 2013
The Silence begins with Timo looking at himself in the mirror as he shaves. It's an apt image for this German semi-murder mystery which draws comparisons to The Killing and Twin Peaks. While this film has elements of those TVs shows, The Silence puts the mystery aspect into the background for the most part and instead brings to the fore the struggles of an anonymous German town's inhabitants as they deal with loss, grief, and obsession.
On a beautiful summer day in 1986, an 11-year old girl is out riding her bicycle in the bucolic German countryside. Timo and his friend Peer are out driving after having watched some child pornography. They follow the girl in their car down a lane. Peer jumps out, catches the girl, and proceeds to rape her before ending her life. All the while Timo sits in the car looking horrified yet he remains silent. His guilt doesn't exactly get the better of him but he does leave town. (I haven't divulged any spoilers here because we see exactly who does what in this brutal opening.)
Twenty three years later the case hasn't been solved. The girl's body was eventually found in a lake but Peer was never brought to justice. Meanwhile Timo got married became a father and, generally speaking, leads a nice middle class life while the detective on the case, Krischan Mittich, celebrates his retirement. Amidst life going on seemingly normally, another 11-year old girl goes missing with her belongings found at the same site where the first victim was killed back in 1986.
Old wounds are reopened and we see that the guilt and sadness from the events in 1986 still haunt many people in the town while others have their own newly-minted problems. Krischan is convinced that it's the same killer and, despite having retired, he begins to investigate on his own. In one scene, he holds a stack of case files and notes that the first investigation ended his marriage. Elena, the mother of the first victim, has seemingly never even started to lift herself from the depths of perdition. She is a doleful figure who has constructed a shrine to her grief by keeping her daughter's room the same as it was in 1986. The detective in charge of the case is David who became a widower just months previously. At one point he asks Elena when the pain begins to go away and she replies, "Never."
With the second murder, the question becomes whether Peer has struck again or if there is a copycat killer on the loose. Guilt gets the better of Timo and he returns to the town in order to confront Peer. Their reunion is absolutely chilling. The onscreen tension is so thick you could cut it with the wrong side of a knife. Timo's face is full of desperation as the life he carefully built up falls apart while Peer wears a smile that may or may not be hiding something. In the end, David is the only person who seems to be able to break through his anguish as he is able to get to the bottom of the case.
The Silence is based upon a novel by Jan Costin Wagner and is Baran bo Odar's directorial debut. Odar and his crew deserve a lot of credit for creating an extremely creepy film that takes place in the glaring sunlight of summer. The mise en scène is very warm yet the characters and events are so unsettling. On the outside everything is bathed by the sun but on the inside the characters are swallowed by shadows. Their abilities to move beyond the past and to struggle with the ineffable while still going forward are obscured, perhaps forever.