Ugliness is Truth, Truth Ugliness: The Silence

03/06/2013 4:00 AM |

The Silence
Directed by Baran bo Odar

Within the first five minutes, a girl is raped and murdered. Within 20, so is another—in the same field, on the same day, 23 years apart. The acts of violence draw in myriad characters: grieving parents from two generations, unraveling detectives from two generations, and the original killer and his long-lost accomplice-friend. Their different stories occupy different genres—grief porn, police procedural, psychothriller—making The Silence‘s 120 minutes feel big like a TV series or a novel… which makes sense, as it’s based on a book by the German crime writer Jan Costin Wagner.

Director Odar, who also adapted the screenplay, functionally and coolly moves through the key plot and emotional points, keeping the multi-stranded story from getting tangled. He also eschews brutality for something prettier; though his subjects are death and worse—pedophiles and the underground pedophile subculture, ugh—he doesn’t revel in violence and depravity. We see the girl raped in the summer of 1986, but only sort of—the act is obscured by tall grasses. The story’s brutality is at odds with Odar’s calculated, almost mannered aestheticism: geometrically composed frames shot in slow motion and filled with natural splendor.

It must be the director’s way of trying to comfort us—lending a little beauty to a place clearly devoid of it. The world of the film is full of guilt, shame, depression, and loneliness, with a lot of characters feeling really bad about a whole lot of things. Wotan Wilke Möhring is the most affecting, playing a man attracted to young girls, tortured by his desires and his inability to master them. In the end, Odar’s characters are forced to confront some kind of evil, something terrible enough they assume it’s the whole of it. The cruel, ironic truth though is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and the world is more vile than we can imagine. But at least it looks pretty.

Opens March 8