Perhaps we’re seeing a renaissance of murder mysteries on the big screen, what with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor) and its impending remake, and now The Silence. Like Larsson’s extremely popular book, The Silence features the resurfacing of a decades-old unsolved murder.
Twenty-three years ago, young Pia was raped and killed in a field, her abandoned bicycle left by the roadside. Fast forward to the present, and an apparently identical crime has been committed – 13 year old Sinnika (Anna Lena Klenke) has vanished, and her bicycle has been found in the exact same spot. The Silence features a multifaceted narrative that follows half a dozen people involved in both crimes, from the victims’ families to the police hot on the trail to the suspects.
First off, we have the two culprits of the initial murder, Peer Sommer (Ulrich Thomson) and Timo Friedrich (Wotan Wilke Möhring). The film opens with a bold and confronting scene set in 1987, as we witness Pia’s death. Fast forward to the present and Timo has since fled both his home town and his accomplice to become a family man. Then we have the investigating police – both the recently retired Krischan Mittich (Burghart Klaußner), who never solved the 1987 case, and David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg), a detective who’s only recently returned to work after the death of his wife.
There’s a whole host of supporting characters also, from the parents of Sinnika to Elena (Katrin Saß), the mother of Pia, who jogs past the site where she disappeared every day. It’s an astoundingly large collection of characters (possibly the biggest this side of any Harry Potter film you care to name), and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that we never get confused at to who each of them are.
Director Baran bo Odar certainly doesn’t deal in subtlety. The film comprises several big, bombastic moments. The score and cinematography serve to highlight this, and whilst they do have a tendency to draw unnecessary attention to their presence, all the elements come together to create a truly cinematic experience. Those disappointed with the ‘made for TV’ vibe that was felt throughout the Swedish-produced Millennium Trilogy may find this is the type of big screen production they were craving.
Unfortunately, the narrative simply isn’t up to all the grandiloquent grandstanding. The film has its moments, to be sure, but The Silence features sequences that build up to ominous heights before simply dissipating. It’s like you’re watching an opera about doing the housework.
That’s not to say that The Silence isn’t an involving mystery, it’s just that the film becomes frustrating. The performances are all strong – particularly that of Jule Böwe as the pregnant detective, Jana Gläser – though some of the characters verge on parody, particularly David, who seems so close to complete mental collapse that it’s incredible anyone would let him anywhere near the police station. Also, the film certainly could have left a little more on the cutting room floor, with Timo’s guilty dithering about what to do bordering on absurd at times.
The Silence is an impressive film that’s ultimately let down by the underwhelming events it makes so much noise about.Rating: