The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - SILENT LAND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - SILENT LAND

silent land review
A couple's relationship crumbles in the aftermath of a tragedy they may have averted.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Agnieszka Woszczynska

Starring: Dobromir Dymecki, Agnieszka Zulewska, Alma Jodorowsky, Jean-Marc Barr, Marcello Romolo, Ibrahim Keshk

silent land poster

Polish director Agnieszka Woszczynska's feature debut Silent Land has a premise that falls somewhere between Ruben Ostlund's Force Majeure and Raymond Carver's short story 'So Much Water So Close to Home'. In Ostlund's film, a vacationing Swedish couple find their relationship tested when the husband flees during what turns out to be a harmless avalanche without thinking about the safety of his wife and kids. In Carver's story, a group of fishermen discover the corpse of a young woman near their favourite spot, but decide to continue with their planned trip regardless.

When early on a character remarks that "We have trouble with the water here," Woszczynska almost seems to be explicitly acknowledging the influence of Carver's story, which has been adapted for the screen by Robert Altman (as one of the may plotlines of Short Cuts) and Ray Lawrence (Jindabyne).

silent land review

There are two troublesome bodies of water at play here. One is a swimming pool attached to a rental home on a scenic Italian island. The other is the Mediterranean, which has ferried immigrants to the island from Africa and the Middle East, causing the military to become stationed on the island.

When visiting middle class Polish couple Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Zulewska) find that the swimming pool is emptied and malfunctioning, the former puts his foot down and insists that their temporary landlord Fabio (Marcello Romolo) have it fixed. "I love you when you're like that," Anna says of her husband's forthrightness, and that night they make passionate love.

silent land review

The following morning they're woken by loud drilling. A young Arab immigrant, Rahim (Ibrahim Keshk), has been hired by Fabio to fix the pool. Adam and Anna put up with the inconvenience for a couple of days, knowing they'll get the pool they were advertised, but tellingly they never offer so much as a cup of coffee to the young labourer. Just as he's completed his work, Rahim gets entangled in his hose and drowns in the pool as it fills. Rather than rush to his aid, Adam calls for an ambulance.

Woszczynska cuts to Adam and Anna as they are interrogated by the local police, who simultaneously want to make them feel bad for allowing the young man to die while reassuring them that as he "wasn't legal," they're not too bothered about Rahim's death. As far as the cops are concerned, Adam and Anna are cleared of any wrongdoing, but will their consciences allow them off the hook so easily?

silent land review

The movie that follows plays out like a very straight version of Force Majeure. The cringe comedy that Ostlund so cleverly deployed is nowhere to be seen here, save for the awkward fumblings of a young cop. Instead we get a lot of uncomfortable silences between Adam and Anna, who both deal with their guilt in their own way. Adam retreats into his own company while Anna insists on befriending a local couple, to whom she lies about her husband's "bravery" in trying to save Rahim.

Eschewing any biting satire, Woszczynska struggles to fill her movie's silence with meaning. Silent Land has a very simple message, that even the most sociopathic and entitled among us may struggle with guilt, but she never explores that notion in a particularly interesting way. Like the new Polish middle classes who look to the West, Woszczynska seems to be aping a type of filmmaking long perfected by Scandinavians. She's nailed the frostiness, but as her film proceeds, its icy exterior melts away until we're simply left with a damp patch where any conclusions might be drawn.

Silent Land is in UK/ROI cinemas from September 23rd.

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