The Silence

Cold Case: Germany


Review written by Robert Patrick

Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Claudia Michelsen

The Silence’s pastoral and yet sinister title implies that you’re about to see some concentrated brooding, unbridled heartache, and teeth gnashing detective work. Baron bo Odar’s melancholy film is about two murders, committed twenty-three years apart, in the same location. What sort of macabre shadowplay is at work? Why has this particular, blood-curdling, crime been mimicked? These answers claw at the psyche of our protagonists – and even our misanthropic antagonists – throughout the Baron bo Odar’s sullen, bloodletting opus. The mise en scene is a dark place, thorny and without resolution.

Two decades after a couple of vacuous souls ravage and kill a preteen girl, the very same wheat field, in all of its alleged serenity, is once again marred, this time by a copycat crime. The mother of the first victim, still haunted by the loss of her daughter, is brought into the fray by the media’s coverage of this new – yet somehow familiar – grisly scene. Meanwhile, Krischan Mittich (Burghart Klaußner), the emotionally splintered detective that investigated the first crime, paws and grasps for leads on the whereabouts of the copycat murder. Elsewhere, David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg), another disheveled and reckless investigator, is assigned to the current case and does everything from yelling at his boss to slugging the victim’s father. Jahn’s unorthodox detective work includes perusing through clues while thoughtfully rubbing his five o’clock shadow in existential circles. Other players in the story – including a gardener, a husband of two, and a lady that just wants her lock fixed – are all caught up in a kaleidoscope of vignettes that range from depressing to hyper-depressing.

The Silence is basically a cloudy potboiler that meanders and plods through a tired web of weathered photographs and brow-rubbing sleuths. And though Baron bo Odar’s slight of hand seems to be going somewhere, the filmmaker’s movie comes across as a shoddy, half-penned foreign language episode of Cold Case that runs for two bulky hours. Sebastian Blomberg’s acting, in particular, is a grab bag of confused facial tics and manic body language; Blomberg’s version of writhing in misery looks like an inflatable tube man that you would find at a used car sale.

The Silence asserts that no violence – emotional or physical – is victimless. This is an accurate byline that no person, in their right mind, would argue over. The problem is that Baron bo Odar’s film is that it needs to be sanded down. The terse, vociferous, and, sometimes, restrained subject matter of internal grieving is material best suited for a director that wields a directorial baton with confidence. Here, the man behind the camera seems too fixated with cable television tropes. There isn’t a second of this movie that doesn’t climb over the wall of an hour long episode of Special Victims Unit.

If you fancy cop dramas with subtitles and emotionally unstable German actors that look like a cross between Paul Schneider and Bill Nighy, you may want to give this one your precious rubles at the theater. If you’re looking for a great diversion, however, you better wait this one out.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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