21st Jul2017

‘Hear The Silence’ Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Lars Doppler, Vera Stadler, Antonia Langenohl, Maja Jotten, Simon Hangartner, Andreas Zahn, Dominik Fenster, Clarissa Molocher, Marina Koch, Andreas Er | Written and Directed by Ed Ehrenberg

hear-the-silence-poster

October 1941, some where in the Ukraine, a squad of young German soldiers stumble upon a small village 200 kilometers behind Russian lines. Freezing, hungry, and wounded, they wait out the cold in an isolated sanctuary as the world wars on around them.

Hear The Silence (org title: Höre die Stille) thrusts its audience into a weary and uncertain standoff between the exhausted soldiers and a village ravaged by Russian occupation. The local men have been conscripted and likely already died. All that remain are the very old, the very young, and women trying to scrape out a living. This film could have taken the easy road and portrayed the German soldiers as ruthless madmen terrorizing a helpless people, but instead, the well-written script gives us a lesson in subtle characterization not often found in a 94 minute run time. The lieutenant is respectful to the villagers and mindful of his men. The soldiers are also kind to the villagers. They even repair the village tractor. Not long in their stay, relationships between the men and women begin to form. There are touching moments in this film that I simply did not expect.

And then it all goes to hell.

Not to give much away, but someone is murdered and someone goes missing. In an instant all the goodwill and kindness disintegrate into 45 minutes of carnage and violence that easily reminds one of a Sam Peckinpah film. And as I witnessed the savagery on both sides, this sad realization came over me that there was no other way this could have played out. This film was never going to have a happy ending no matter how badly I hoped it would happen.

But the movie isn’t perfect. The catalyst for all the mayhem springs from a murder that truly happens out of nowhere. I was shocked to the point I thought I had missed something from earlier in the film, some hint in the plot. After all, these men are soldiers, not murders. Nope, I didn’t miss anything. It just happens. For such a pivotal moment in the film, it feels forced. Also, the villagers just throw their lives away during the final shootout. Random people will pick up the nearest rifle and go running wildly into the open, shooting from the hip. This is a terrible offensive strategy. One would think stern, weather-hardened, Ukrainians would know that. I’m a chubby city-boy, drinking a latte while wearing a Voltron tee-shirt, and even I know that sprinting up the middle of an enemy’s crosshairs is a regrettable decision. At a certain point it becomes obvious the cast has to die just to move the story along, and that kind of lazy writing shouldn’t have a place in such a solid script.

Hear The Silence is a 2016 film produced by the München Film Academy for their end-of-year exam. It’s a student film but you would never know it based on the high quality. The script is tight and pulls you in. The acting is far superior than what I would expect from a film school. The directing is top notch and camera work is above par. Whatever curriculum the München film Academy is teaching, they’re teaching it right.

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