Le Silence de la Mer (1949)
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Le Silence de la Mer was based upon a popular wartime "underground" novel by Vercours. Most of the film is confined to the living room of a bourgeois French family. Howard Vernon plays Von Ebrennae, a cultured Nazi officer who is billeted in this household. As the residents stare at him in mute contempt, Von Ebrennae eloquently articulates his philosophy of life, which turns out to be pretty odious at times. Director Jean-Pierre Melville assembled La Silence de la Mer outside the established French film industry, using a non-union cast and crew and adapting the Vercours novel without securing the movie rights. Though it was much too verbose and cerebral for American viewers, the film proved most influential in shaping the future works of such directors as Robert Bresson and Alain Resnais. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Le Silence de la Mer
Filmed in the most daring way imaginable, using a new cinematic language of transient expressions and glances, the film was a root influence on Bresson and the whole French New Wave.
Melville called it an "anti-cinematic" film, and he creates the expressiveness in what remains unspoken, the glances and gestures that take on grand drama in the minimalist presentation.
Although the movie's narrative and acting style are typical of older films, "Le Silence de la Mer" has a modern sensibility and feel, embracing subtlety and ambiguity in a way that was idiosyncratic at the time.
if the niece's silence gives intimate expression to a whole nation's resistance, Werner too, far from being demonised as a villain, himself becomes a dramatic embodiment of the tensions within occupied France.
The Occupation and its effects on people's emotional lives are recurrent themes in Melville's work, which has inspired the likes of Bresson, Astruc, Resnais and Rohmer.
Audience Reviews for Le Silence de la Mer
Le Silence de la Mer was often called an anti-cinematic film by it's aspiring new Director, Jean-Pierre Melville. He went outside the film industry in order to make the film and didn't even have the rights to the source material when he filmed it. The film itself is one in which a lot happens and is said on the part of a German officer to the French man and his daughter with whom he lodges with. The German's are invading France and while under occupation they are stuck with this German officer with whom is very outspoken. While most of what the officer says is simply concerning music, art, cultures, other topics include philosophical observations and ideals. The man and his daughter are silent the entire film as this officer goes on and on and it's only out of defiance they maintain their silence. Near the end of the film the officer is finally awakened to the true cruelty of the Nazi party and his superiors views and it's this that enlightens him and he decides to depart to the front lines, disenchanted and dumbfounded. We hear the daughter utter goodbye to him, the first and only word spoken to him in the entire film.
Le Silence de la Mer or The Silence of the Sea is very simplistic, both in it's filming technique and it's characters but it's entirely lyrical and thought provoking in it's subject matter. This is one of the only films in which the French resistance is shown and the German officers, at least some of them, are not all shown as monstrous brainwashed machines. Granted, our central character is the only one that isn't a true monster but this depiction is what I believe to be honest and true as not every single one could have been so heartless. Certainly the film shows their crimes and terrible inhuman ideals but also that not every one was truly in the know about Hitler's true intentions, at least outside the inner circle. The film was not only beautiful but also showed something rarely seen and had a profound effect on many other French directors afterwards, including Robert Bresson and Alain Resnais. While mostly lost on the American audiences, the film was well received in its native country and was prolific as the debut film of Melville. This was a pleasure to watch and truly an eye opening and inspiring film.
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