out of Five
Running time: 114
Gripping and disturbing German thriller that should appeal to fans of The Killing, thanks to stylish direction, a sharply written script and superb performances from a strong cast.
What's it all about?
Directed by Baran Bo Odar, The Silence (Das letzte Schweigen, original title fans) begins in 1986 with a car following a young girl on a bike on a country road; shortly afterwards the girl is raped and killed by caretaker Peer Sommer (Ulrich Thomsen) while his friend Timo Friedrich (Wotan Wilke Mohring) watches from the car but does nothing to stop the crime. 23 years later, another girl goes missing and her bicycle is found in the exact same spot as the previous crime, prompting the soon-to-retire detective from the 1986 case (Burghart Klaussner as Krischan Mittich) to become obsessed with catching the killer he failed to find 23 years ago.
Meanwhile, Timo, now married with children, is crippled with guilt over his original silence and travels back to his home town, visiting both the original girl's mother (Katrin Sass) and Peer, while we see flashbacks of the uncomfortable nature of their relationship, cemented by a shared obsession with child pornography. At the same time, detective David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg) makes progress with case but is beset by personal problems of his own.
The performances are excellent, particularly Klaussner and Blomberg as two detectives whose obsessive involvements with the case are driven by different but equally compelling reasons, Mittich because he's haunted by his failure to solve the original case and Jahn because he's pouring everything he has into the case in order to escape his own recent grief. Similarly, Thomsen and Mohring are superb as the two men bonded together by their horrific secret and the script, intriguingly, makes us pity them rather than fear them (though Thomsen's character becomes increasingly chilling).
The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Nikolaus Summerer and Bo Odar directs with a striking sense of style throughout, particularly in his use of overhead shots and bold colours. Similarly, while there's obviously no question of who the killer is, Bo Odar maintains a powerfully suspenseful atmosphere throughout as you wait to see how it will all play out.
In short, The Silence is a gripping and powerfully emotional German thriller with strong echoes of recent superlative Danish TV drama The Killing. Highly recommended.