Eva lives in the sinister Tower with her father, a mad inventor, and her grandfather. The aviator Wilfred Durian and his lovely wife live nearby in the town. But Durian's famous flight ... See full summary »
Eva lives in the sinister Tower with her father, a mad inventor, and her grandfather. The aviator Wilfred Durian and his lovely wife live nearby in the town. But Durian's famous flight across the Australian desert was not all it seems... and when his 'dead' partner Arved Holl is rescued by Eva and comes to claim his former fiancée's hand, the whole house of cards is about to come tumbling down. Meanwhile, Eva's own family history is not quite as she had always believed... Written by
After the Wagnerian scope of last year's "Chronicles of the Grey House", the Murnau Institute's latest restoration was a bit of a come-down. With hindsight, the presentation preceding the film should have been a warning: Friedemann Beger spoke of the Institute's work preserving everyday films as well as the great German masterpieces, and mentioned that the director had been involved in over a hundred features... This one, I would guess, was originally a bread-and-butter soap opera story akin to a South American telenovela, in which emotions are writ large, everyone turns out to be related to everyone else, and the moral of the story is that history repeats itself by a series of amazing coincidences. The best I can say in this respect is that it may have been aiming for greater depth than it achieves.
I found "The Tower of Silence" somewhat slow to catch my interest; it's a long time before the relationship between the scenes in the grotesque world of the Tower and the apparently-unrelated flashbacks of desert adventure becomes apparent, and I didn't find myself caring about the fate of the characters until close to the end. By the point at which I caught myself screaming mentally at Durian to "Run! Run--" it was, as Liane says, a little too late for that.
I'm not sure how much of this sense of dislocation is deliberate and how much was the film's failure to come to life for me. The life of the Tower and its demented Keeper is intentionally weird, but until the very final scenes it's completely obscure what the point of this segment is, and the girl Eva, who forms the main link between the two strands, is never really characterised beyond a nebulous sweetness: as a result, the more engaging modern-day story of Arved Holl's return from the dead dominates, and the denouement (which revolves around a flashback to two further characters in whom we have no real emotional investment...) is undermined as yet another digression. However, the treatment of Holl's story itself was quite successful, and I found this to be the most engaging part of the film, and the only one in which I actually came to care about the characters -- albeit slowly...
The episodic nature of the flashbacks produces a series of revelations that gradually change our perception of the relationship at the heart of this story: that of Holl, Durian, and Liane whom they both loved. We move from the assumption that Holl is a sadly-deceased sidekick to the fact that they were equals and that Durian betrayed him, to the irony that it is Holl who initially volunteers self-sacrifice, and Durian who then protests that they should draw lots -- which he loses; from the initial assumption that Holl is in love with the woman we know to be Durian's wife, to the discovery that Durian was motivated not by righteous jealousy but by desire for the woman who was to be his friend's own bride; from the opening image of Durian as athletic hero to his revelation as a weak man destroyed by guilt. The trouble is that I'm not at all convinced how much of this ambiguous progression was intended as actual misdirection, and how much is just lax storytelling!
Liane is perhaps the most atypical character in the film -- and benefits from perhaps the best actress. Far from the stereotype of the prima donna stage star, vain, fickle and self-obsessed, she turns out to be the strong moral centre of the Durians' marriage; as the innocent party she suffers perhaps the most, rebuffed by Holl (who laughs in her face, assuming her to be complicit with his former friend), saving and supporting the husband who is not the hero she had thought, and ultimately losing both of the men she loved.
If the film had restricted itself to the story of this triangle -- possibly in greater depth (the opening scenes of the Durians' happy marriage are flat and stagy, rather than joyous as they should have been) -- then it might have shown promise. But instead, we had what I could only feel to be the intrusion of the eponymous Tower, about whose sketchily-drawn inhabitants I never managed to feel any interest at all. As a consequence, the snippets of the Keeper brooding or raving over his lost wife failed to whet my curiosity, but were simply portentous pretentious Gothickry interrupting the 'main' story -- Eva may have been desperate by the end to know her family history, but I wasn't! And for that matter, the girl's sudden access of sisterly devotion to the man who has wronged her lover (but of whom she has suddenly discovered herself to be the illegitimate half-sister -- surely, since his father was the cause of her parents' suicide and madness, not a relative of whom to be fond?) is a highly implausible plot point... although as she is a saintly bystander throughout, I suppose it can hardly be said to be out of character.
Unfortunately, the grand mystery of the Tower is supposed to be the linchpin of the whole thing, and Ceel's didactic, talky tale to be the set-up for a tragic echo of history -- he even gets to write an explicit moral in his journal entry to tell us what to think on leaving the film. It doesn't carry the weight it's supposed to.
As a great potboiler saga of fate and revenge, "Der Turm des Schweigens" is by my estimation a failure. As a contemporary romantic drama, it has its moments -- if you can sit through the interruptions!
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