Posted October 18, 2011 by Ben Winkley in Films

The Silence

Two murders open this hugely impressive feature debut, set in the oppressive heat of a German summer.

Two murders open this hugely impressive feature debut, set in the
oppressive heat of a German summer.

It is ruining nothing to let
on that Peer Sommer, a charming, respected member of the community, and a
paedophile, commits the first killing. He’s accompanied on that day by Timo
Friedrich, a nervous younger man who’s fallen in with Sommer and who, terrified
after witnessing the murder and a couple of other deeply dark things, runs.

A generation later, the
second murder – identical in almost every way to the earlier death, and
committed in exactly the same place – unlocks long-suppressed emotions in the
many people with links with both deaths.

What follows is part
whodunit, at least in relation to the second death, but much more than that is
finely observed psychodrama, and writer-director Baran bo Odar adroitly allows a strong ensemble cast to produce a
whole raft of fine performances.

Retired policeman Krischan
Mittich (Burghart Klaussner)
involves himself in the murder investigation as he seeks to atone for his
failure in the earlier case. The mother of the first victim, still grieving, is
forced to revisit the horror of her past. Timo must confront the many lies he’s
been living in the time between the two murders. The newly bereaved parents
fall apart in helpless silence while the search for their daughter’s body

Leading the police search,
meanwhile, is David Jahn, himself involved in a fierce struggle with the
effects of the recent passing of his wife.

All these emotions, from the
raw recent wounds to the deeply ingrained, collide over a handful of days as
the mystery unfolds, paths cross and uncomfortable truths come out.

Sebastien Blomberg delivers the
stand-out performance as policeman Jahn – disheveled and tic-ridden, throwing
himself into his work and struggling to cling to any sense of normality; Wotan Wilke Mohring plays Timo as a man
not so much on the edge as on the precipice, a look of permanent fear on his
face as the life he’s created for himself unravels uncontrollably; and Katrin Sass brings a quiet dignity to
Elena Lange, a mother living with 23 years of suppressed grief.

Beautifully shot by DoP Nikolaus Summerer amid the anonymity of
German suburbia, and maintaining a solid balance between the pace necessary for
a police procedural and that needed for a melodrama, The Silence should be the
first of many good things from Swiss director Odar.

Ben Winkley