Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille) Reviews
Lara's parents are not deaf and dumb, but just deaf. They are not dumb and are very expressive. Using sign language does not make them dumb. Only an idiot would say that. The sign language they use is not International Sign Language, but German Sign Language. Another idiotic label of their sign language!
The problem between the father of Lara and his sister does not originate from sibling rivalry, but from the unjust punishment he received from his audist father when he laughs out loud at the odd facial movements of a singer during a musical performance. The prejudices that this family has are not locally bound, but are widespread in countries all over the world. This is called audism, a mindset of hearing as the ultima ration of human existence, from which prejudices and discriminations against deaf people emanate.
It's not that Link's films are filmed in any extraordinary way; in fact, when watching Beyond Silence last night, I hardly noticed the camera's movements at all. I didn't pay attention to the cuts, the pans, the zooms, the... you know, whatever else it is that directing is all about.
Instead, what I noticed was the way that the characters interacted. I noticed the way that the actors looked at one another, the way they held their hands. Although Link may not have a distinctive style visually, she has a clear knack for directing her cast -- or at least, she has a knack for snagging brilliant performers.
The story tells of a young girl named Lara who has two deaf parents. There's a lot of familial trouble here, with Lara's father disliking his sister Clarissa. Clarissa plays the clarinet and encourages Lara to do the same, which only serves to put more distance between the parent and his daughter. Lara has trouble having deaf parents, Clarissa and her father have difficulty dealing with having a deaf relative, Lara's parents have trouble coping with a hearing daughter, and innumerable other mish-mashes of obstacles and problems and questions arise.
What's interesting about this film is that despite the apparently simple storyline (which has kind of a sappy ending, seemingly obvious moral choices, and a surplus of loose ends), so much is brought to the table by the strength of the acting alone. Yes, I would say that this is an actor's film -- but unlike this year's Doubt, which I also said this about, the performances are not loud and broad and demanding. Instead, the action is subtle and whispered and casual.
One scene in particular sticks out in my mind, although it's kind of spoiler-y. When Lara is in her teenage years, her mother gets into an automobile accident and dies. After learning this news, the next scene shows Lara curled up in bed with her father and sister; they are both with him to provide him some comfort during this troublesome time. It is early morning and the sun is shining into the room, as everyone remains asleep. Everyone, that is, except Lara's father: he is staring into the sun with his brow furrowed in sadness and anger and confusion. It's an immensely powerful scene, and yet it is mere seconds long.
Alright, from here on out, no more spoilers. The point I am trying to make here is that the reason that this film is so affecting is because of these small moments, these small sighs and gentle gestures. One of the most moving scenes in Link's Nowhere in Africa is a love scene. That scene is not shown in any graphic or demeaning way. It's quiet and the characters involved seem to share a connection that can't be written into a script. Here, Link has captured that emotion and stretched it out through the entire film.
Despite some of the aforementioned missteps, e.g. the rushed ending, Beyond Silence is a powerful film: not a tale of the deaf dealing with the hearing or vice-versa, not a tale of a father dealing with his daughter or vice-versa, not a tale of a girl falling in love with a man or vice-versa. Instead, it's merely a story about humans. If there are loose ends, it shouldn't be surprising: there are loose ends in real life. These characters interact with one another, they are affected by each other, and it is not all reaching toward one ultimate goal or moral.
Beyond Silence is a remarkable, intimate film.