1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... See full summary »
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Robert G. Vignola
1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von Ebrennac, to live in for as long as he is in the area on Nazi business. As a figurative and literal silent protest against the Nazis and the officer, the uncle and niece do whatever is required of them while the officer is in their house, however they do not acknowledge his presence, living largely in silence whenever he is around. The officer treats the housing situation with care, like he is a guest. Although not a nightly occurrence, the officer begins an evening routine with his reluctant hosts: in his civilian clothes, he knocks on the door of the room in which they have convened for the evening, walking in shortly thereafter knowing that no acknowledgment will be made for him to enter, he visits with them for no more than five minutes before he bids them a good evening as he exits. During these ... Written by
Melville began filming without the rights to Vercors' novel; when Vercors heard of this, he met with Melville, who told him that if he did not like the film, he would burn the negative. Melville was also not in the screenwriters' or directors' unions and had difficulty in employing people and getting distribution. However, the film was an immense success, both critically and commercially and Vercors loved it. See more »
In a small town in occupied France, the tranquil life of the occupants of a country house (an uncle and his niece) is disturbed when a new German officer, Lieutenant Werner Von Ebrennac is billeted and takes up residence in their home. Not wanting to be seen to be collaborating with the enemy they both agree not to let the foreign presence interfere with their everyday life and to this end they even refuse to acknowledge their new guest when he speaks to them. Von Ebrennac a musician and budding composer understands their stubbornness and each night he joins them in their living room and regales them with his stories, on topics such as his love of France, the influence of his father, the war and his passion for music, all of his thoughts and questions go unanswered by the uncle and his niece, he puffs on his pipe while she continues to knit, all the time never making eye contact with their unwanted guest. Privately they both seem to have a growing respect for Von Ebrennac,a learned, romantic and cultured man who imparts his knowledge of French literature with a vitality that can't help but enthuse the listener, he even resorts to wearing civilian clothes in order that his hosts feel more comfortable in his presence.
After the fall of France to the occupying Nazi's, Jean Pierre Melville who fought in the famous battle of Dunkirk found himself demobbed from the French military and subsequently ended up in London where he tried to do his part for the French Resistance, it was there that his love of Cinema gave him his first inkling of what his first project would be, he wanted to adapt the infamous and iconic Resistance book, La Silence de la Mer by Vercors, After the war Melville approached Vercors looking for his permission to adapt his work, which was denied. Despite this setback Melville set out to make the film anyway, another problem that beset him was that he had no Cinematic training and in the highly regulated and unionised France this was going to be a sticking point if the film was going to be made, but his determination fuelled the project and soon Vercors was on board, after Melville made him an offer that the film would never be released unless it was accepted by an esteemed Resistance audience at a private screening and if it didn't compromise his book, of course the film was widely accepted with only one vote against. Melville strived for authenticity and even used Vercors' own home for the filming and also employed actors that had been in the Resistance.
Jean-Marie Robain plays the Uncle and his voice is for the most part only heard in voice-over, both he and Nicole Stéphane's (the Niece) performances by their nature have to be very subdued and all emotion is shown with but the slightest of glances and hardly any movement. Vernon has nearly all the on screen speaking parts and the film is broken up into his ever more emotive musings on life that border on soliloquy and its his performance that holds together the film, when after a brief trip to Paris to meet some old friends, he returns devastated in the knowledge of the atrocities that are to happen and that have been happening, he must now admit to his hosts that his interpretations of his countries ideals have been erroneous. A sublime debut from Melville that influenced many of his fellow countrymen, like Bresson, Truffaut and Godard, with but the slightest hint of what direction his career would take, his gathering together of first timers succeeded in creating a film that bucked many of the filmic trends of the day and as such helps retain its freshness and power even today.
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