The Silence – Murder Most Thrilling

Nothing shakes humans like murder or attempted murder.

No, nothing comes even remotely close.

As the escapee of a likely violent attack on a recent dark, rainy evening (December 14), I should know how chilling en ce moment, and thrilling in retrospect, the experience can be.

Whether the victims are carefully chosen or random, murder is often seen as the best solution to a problem.

As Stalin is said to have famously (not) declared:

Death solves all problems; No man, no problem.

Whether Stalin made the ‘death’ statement attributed to him or not, he faithfully executed its essence even while elevating his killings to mass murder.

Lesser criminals, like the ones we encounter in real life or see in movies, must be content with murder on a purely retail scale.

The Silence

Das letzte Schweigen a.k.a. The Silence (German, 2010) is a film that deals with murder in a small German town.

Isn’t murder in large cities so passe. 😉

Beautifully adapted from Jan Costin Wagner’s novel Das SchweigenThe Silence looks at the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl through the prism of a young girl’s murder 23 years earlier in the same place.

Although the crimes are separated by over two decades, they appear to be connected in a fashion.

In both cases, the victims are young girls in the first flush of puberty, riding their bicycles and the crimes are seemingly random.

When 13-year-old Sinnika disappears one evening after visiting the local fairground to meet her friends, it’s not long before people’s attention are drawn yet again to the unsolved murder of Pia, which happened over two decades earlier.

Of course, we know exactly what happened to Pia when she was riding her bicycle down a deserted lane amidst golden yellow farmland.

Early in the movie, we (the audience) see Pia running from her attacker, the struggle, the rape in the field and the young girl’s murder.

We know her murderer too but the police don’t. And so the crime remains unsolved.

Sinnika – Lot of Questions

But what happened to Sinnika, the girl who disappeared recently, remains a mystery to both the audience and the police until the end.

Is Sinnika even murdered or has she just run off in a huff after the nasty fight with her father?

Is there a connection between Sinnika’s disappearance and the earlier unsolved crime, a failure that still deeply bothers the retired police chief?

Why is the architect Timo so disturbed when Sinnika disappears?

Sinnika’s disappearance raises a lot of questions, the hallmark of a good crime thriller.

The second crime is a more complex one than the first, something we learn only toward the end of the film.


One of the novelties of The Silence is that this is one of those rare films where screen time for both the murderer and the murdered is far less compared to the time the camera lingers on other characters.

Director Baran bo Odar is to be commended for bringing a fine amalgam of crime, guilt, tension and fear to the screen.

I was mucho pleased with this thriller and have no hesitation in recommending it.

Sebastian Blomberg as the depressed detective David Jahn and Wotan Wilke Möhring as Timo are impressive.

But The Silence is one of those movies where the carefully scripted plot is the real star.

The Silence is available on DVD (with English subtitles) at Netflix should you care to watch it.

4 Responses to "The Silence – Murder Most Thrilling"

  1. araj   December 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This movie works better as a psychological thriller than a crime thriller, tilting in fact heftily towards a melodrama because of director Bo Odar’s eagerness to make us empathize with the agony of every aggrieved character.

    However, the plot’s somewhat neutral moral take on the pedophile(s) rather than presenting it as if every pedophile is the most repulsive creature on the planet, which is often the case with stories of this nature, saves the day for him.

    As this is a movie based on a novel, I would like to know how far did the director tweak the original to include the ‘sentiment’ so as to make the film palatable to the public. Especially, the remorse/regret/guilt of Timo was awkwardly shot and right in the face of the audience.

    Bo Odar could have fleshed Timo’s character out more, made it more objective and left it to the spectators to work out his agony themselves rather than pleading us repeatedly to understand him, showing us close-up shots of his glum visage and floundering gait (What makes him love child porn so much despite his guilt, for example?? Is there something a ‘normal’ person cannot easily understand?).

    Even one of the film’s central themes, the irrepressible need for a pedophile to communicate with another too could perhaps have been explored more (which is an intriguing aspect among the pedophiles). .

    There are quite a few peripherals whose presence is not warranted in the movie.

    Say, is it necessary to have an Inspector who lost his wife to the cancer on the investigative team? are we supposed to sympathize with him???(or it is part of the novel?)…..

    By the way, on the logical front, is it so difficult for the police to guess (conclude) that there were two people in the car in 1986?? 🙂 Responds:

    1. Having a bizarre, slightly unhinged character like the Inspector who recently lost his wife to cancer adds to the drama, more so when we consider that it’s he who ultimately unravels the plot.

    2. Psychological elements are often a sub-set of crime thrillers. Rarely does one see the predominant influence of psychological elements in films outside of crime settings.

    3. You write: Even one of the film’s central themes, the irrepressible need for a pedophile to communicate with another too could perhaps have been explored more (which is an intriguing aspect among the pedophiles).

    It’s hardly an intriguing aspect for one pedophile to want to communicate with another. Since pedophilia is now illegal in most parts of the globe, the men hankering after nymphets, Nobokov’s Lolitas, can only communicate with like ones if they want to avoid jail time.

    4. You write: By the way, on the logical front, is it so difficult for the police to guess (conclude) that there were two people in the car in 1986??

    As high profile cases like OJ, JonBenét Ramsay and several false convictions in USA (many released thanks to the Innocence Project) have demonstrated, police investigations are sometimes hopelessly clumsy affairs.

    • araj   December 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm


      “Having a bizarre, slightly unhinged character like the Inspector……….”

      Such a device usually works in a film, especially in a crime movie, only if the gloom associated with that character sufficiently enriches the overall dark hue of the movie so as to evoke that subliminal fear of inescapable cruel patterns life traps us in (eg.,.you have not gotten over the death of your wife but are asked to deal with a missing child and a possible murder).. For that to happen, all the dark strands of the movie should seamlessly integrate into the central theme (this is in fact one of the major skills that separates a master filmmaker from the average/sophomore). But that didn’t happen in this movie. All such supposed strands were left disconnected and primarily appear to have been incorporated in the movie to appease the popular notions of the grief; of parents who lost their child, of a single mother who cannot forget her long dead daughter, of a man struggling to cope with the death of his wife and a self-important boss. It’s not that they are not potential themes to explore about; rather, they were dealt casually and ostensibly. However, often, in the films that are based on a novel, the narrative bridges that connect the themes resonating with a particular character to the leitmotif of the book are often burnt by the screenwriter in the process of transforming the novel into a screenplay duly retaining only the essential facts. This inspector’s character could be one of those.

      “Psychological elements are often a sub-set of crime thrillers. Rarely does one………..”

      Very true. But bulk of the crime movies are equally dominated by both ‘whodunit’ and ‘why-did-it’ and certain crime movies are solely dominated by ‘who’. I recently watched David Fincher’s Zodiac and that film is entirely about ‘who did it’ ignoring the ‘why’ for the most part. But this film is heavily dominated by ‘why’, although, of course, we are not absolutely sure of ‘who’ as well. Hence my classification of psychological thriller.

      “It’s hardly an intriguing aspect for one pedophile…..hankering after Nabokov’s Lolitas….”

      Well, to be brutally frank, all men, at least mentally, hanker after Lolitas. But pedophilia is about more than Lolitas, thus, clinically classified as a ‘condition’ because all pedophiles share some bizarre and unique traits such as desire for having sex with sexually premature children and sharing their victims with other pedophiles. Hence, this aspect becomes all the more important in this movie, because the perpetrator goes to great lengths, such as committing a murder, just to ‘send a message’. Responds:

      1. You write: Well, to be brutally frank, all men, at least mentally, hanker after Lolitas. But pedophilia is about more than Lolitas,….

      Fascination with Nabokov’s Lolitas and actual sex with the legally under-age are just opposite ends of the spectrum and a lot of Americans, and some Europeans, play on both ends.

      Some, to paraphrase Jimmy Carter’s famous 1976 Playboy interview, commit adultery in their hearts while other insanely stupid ones go to the other end of the pedophilia spectrum and get jailed.

      But the vilification of pedophiles is fairly new in American history.

      Until fairly recently, Americans were the biggest pedophiles and pederasts in the globe. There were even associations like NAMBLA to pander to Americans’ insane fixation on sex with mentally immature boys. Catholic priests in countless parishes were buggering any altar boy they could lay their hands and dicks on and Americans laity turned a blind eye to transgressions of their clergy (The parishes are now paying a heavy price via lawsuits and damages running into millions).

      Americans were also among the biggest sex tourists in South East Asia and some even made their home there.

      But with the rise of the Republican Party, the Christian Right and the private Prison corporations, America decided it’d be more profitable to take a stand against pedophilia. Visit any DOJ U.S. Attorney web site (each state has one) and you’ll find press releases galore dealing with arrests for child pornography.

      Assuming that for every American caught another 20-30 get away, I’d say America is a nation of perverts and Child Molesters with an idee fixe on sex with under-age children.

      I’m not convinced pedophiles have a desire to just share victims…Au contraire, they’re trading in all aspects related to pedophilia since it’s illegal and they can’t trade with anyone else. I see it as more of an information network or social network of like-minded people engaging in illegal behavior. “Sending a message” to Timo in the movie The Silence should be seen in that sense, although the ‘why’ of the message was not completely explored. Was it just friendship or the laying of the ground for fresh adventures…hard to say because the movie does not go further.

      2. In The Silence, you’re sure of the ‘Who’ as it relates to the first victim and most viewers rightly suspect the correct ‘Who’ of the second victim too.

      The drama here is actually in the ‘process’ or the ‘Why’ and the strange, unusual guilt and fear of Timo.

      3. The Inspector’s character is one of those enigmatic devices directors sometimes introduce purely as a dramatic counterfoil to other aspects of the movie.

      I’m not even sure if The Silence is dark movie in the strict sense since the ‘who’ is not even at issue.

  2. boopalanj   December 28, 2013 at 5:25 am

    Are things discussed in the above comment a sort of spoilers? Responds:

    To some degree.

    But The Silence can still be enjoyed!

    It’s not a pure whodunit kind of movie!

    • araj   December 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      Sorry for the lapse. I thought of spoilers but didn’t think my comment necessitated the warning.

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