MRR Review: "The Silence"

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13-year-old Sinikka vanishes on a hot summer night. Her bicycle is found in the exact place where a girl was killed 23 years ago. The dramatic present forces those involved in the original case to face their past.
3.5

MRR Review: "The Silence"

-- Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 111 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 19, 2010
Directed by: Baran bo Odar
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller

In present-day rural Germany, a young girl named Sinikka (Anna-Lena Klenke) goes missing in an otherwise picturesque wheat field. Her bike is found in the same position and area that another young girl's bike was found twenty-three years earlier. That girl, Pia (Helene Doppler), was raped and murdered by Peer (Ulrich Thomsen) as his friend Timo (Wotan Wilke Möhring) looked on in horror and arousal. Timo splits town before Peer can swear him to silence, not to be seen again until Sinikka is reported missing.

Once news of her disappearance begins to surface, so do the people involved in Pia's case from the 1980s. Timo is now married with two children and has seemingly buried his secret so deeply that not even his wife or friends know what happened in that wheat field. He is sure Peer is behind Sinikka's disappearance but can't go to the police lest he be arrested for being an accomplice to Pia's murder. The cop who couldn't solve Pia's case, Krischan (Burghart Klaußner), is still haunted by his inability to find Peer. Pia's mother, Elana (Katrin Sass), still jogs by the wheat field every morning, unable to let her grief go.

The officer assigned to the case, David (Sebastian Blomberg), is also grieving, having recently lost his wife to cancer. He can barely handle reality, much less the case, so he enlists Krischan to help him, since there are eerie similarities between the current case and Pia's. The fact that Sinikka's body hasn't been found gives them a faint ray of hope that she could still be alive, unlike Pia. The two cops begin to work relentlessly to make sense of the clues, as Sinikka's anxious family and a tortured Timo are ready to spill secrets that could bust the case wide open.

"The Silence" has a fairly large ensemble cast, since there are characters from two different time periods that have all come together on a collision course in the present. Despite the large amount of characters, there isn't a single weak performance in the bunch. All the actors are stellar across the board, which just adds to the richness of the film. Particularly touching is Sass as Elana, Pia's still-grieving mother, who can't seem to move on despite the fact that her daughter's body was found and laid to rest. Watching the old memories get dredged up by the new case is an emotional punch to the gut that brings back a flood of bad memories for Elana, who deserves to be free of her grief more than anyone in the film.

One of the things that "The Silence" does particularly well is to show the grief of the families of the victims. Too often, movies in the crime genre focus on the investigation and detectives on the case. If there is any family grieving to be shown, it is generally the family of the lead detective, who doesn't get to see him or her very often because of long hours of investigative work on the case. The family of the dead or missing is usually not the focus, which is a shame, since there is so much drama to be mined there. "The Silence" gives ample time to both the family of the missing girl and forlorn mother of the first victim from two decades earlier. These scenes are sometimes moody, sometimes touching, and always heartbreaking in their quiet desperation. They serve to make the audience want the cases to be solved even more, giving them a vested interest in the outcome of the film.

The ending is a bit of a surprise, because so many possibilities are thrown into play due to the clever screenplay. At some point or another in the narrative, almost everyone becomes a suspect, not just the obvious characters like Peer. With so many family secrets trickling out like the sweat on their heat-ridden brows, it is almost impossible for viewers to decide exactly what the ending will be. This helps ratchet up the tension as the film slowly wades through one tense scene after another until it gets to its ultimate conclusion. Odar has pulled off the rare feat of being able to write and direct his own film without losing sight of what works. Too many times a writer/director is so immersed in the story that he or she overlooks some aspects of the film because he or she is too familiar with the narrative. That doesn't happen here, as Odar has crafted a satisfying film with enough emotional resonance to stay with audiences even after the film is over.

Rating 3.5 out of 5