The evil Nazi doctor making the life-or-death selection when prisoners arrive at the concentration camp is portrayed by the actual warden of the Komarno Fortress where the scene was shot. See more »
Strikingly moving artistry
We all have seen the Holocaust story told through the eyes of the victims: the protagonists of countless documentaries, biopics, and dramatizations. In Silence's, innovative concept and sublimely sensitive execution breaks the mold of typical victim's perspective in its fresh, provocative, and deeply moving presentation.
The film follows the typical Holocaust story line: early/pre-Nazi normalcy followed by the first anti-Jewish laws, the disruption, the gathering storm, the shock of reality, the gruesome horrors, and the shambles of what is left thereafter. However, in viewing this chronology through the eyes of artists, the film leverages artistry to tell the story: not merely the art of the victims but the filmmaker's own interpretation of time and rhythm, reinforced by rich cinematography, striking visuals, music, and silence.
It is consistently difficult to grasp the sense of time in this film. The beginning, middle, and end are clearly signaled, as they are predictable. Also, the inexorable spiral of the well- documented historical events is inevitable. However, in scene after scene, the sharp cuts and shifts in focus among the characters create a sense of disorientation. This is accentuated in the first phase by halcyon, color-saturated broad vistas breaking to black and white mechanical processes filmed in macro.
The rapidity and unexpectedness of the cuts are echoed in sound, including abrupt and ostensibly bafflingly interruptions of musical performances: one greatly melodious, another heavily rhythmic, both precipitously going silent. The viewer is left breathless with foreboding. Conversely, other performances occur or carry-on under bizarre circumstances; circumstances that demand silence yet from which music emanates, strangely punctuating the absurdity of the situation. The viewer is left before a surrealistic tableau that echoes the absurdity that the callous and senseless barbarity of the Holocaust did in fact occur, and that it was rooted in societies that valued highly and nurtured art, thought, and science.
As is typically the case in this genre, we live the horror through the eyes of the protagonists, in this case the artists. Their artistic cargo creates the gargantuan juxtaposition of sublime beauty with abject immorality. During internment, when the characters' sensitive artistic souls are muffled by the animalistic need to survive, the viewer becomes unbalanced, confused, profoundly moved, and horrified. In one of the later scenes, one of the characters poignantly comments that she is unable to distinguish between what she lived through and what others told her of it. The suggestion is that the sensitive victim was so aghast at the degree of the monstrosity through which she lived as to be unable to comprehend its reality. I share in her disorientation, as I recall the striking sounds and images that I experienced while viewing this impressive and resonant film.
In Silence eloquently provokes us to address that persistent question: how this possibly could have happened in such an advanced society. In contrasting so starkly the secure/insecure, the lushness/spareness, the beauty/depravity, and the music/silence, we are reminded that no society is immune to wholesale debasement. The world must not forget: if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere.
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