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The Boston Globe

Movies

MOVIE REVIEW

‘The Silence’ ends up feeling empty of noir soul

Film noir has taken root in the dank, angsty soul of Northern Europe, though you wouldn’t know it from “The Silence,” an adaptation of Jan Costin Wagner’s novel by Swiss-born writer-director Baran bo Odar. In this, his first feature, Odar dispels the air of doom and despair found in films ranging from Niels Arden Oplev’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (2007) to Bruno Dumont’s “Humanite.” “The Silence” is a victim of over-plotting, clunky narrative, gratuitous stylization, and too many points of view. When any character quirk or story turn shows promise, depend on some ill-considered directorial decision to put a stop to it.

This despite a promising start. The film opens with an enigmatic montage involving a tacky apartment, two guys on a sofa, a super-8 image of a girl with glasses, and a rattling movie projector. The two men are Peer (Ulrich Thomsen) and Timo (Wotan Wilke Möhring), and a flashback shows their first meeting on a park bench overlooking a playground. With halting inevitability they sniff out each other’s proclivities and fall, almost unconsciously, into a lethal pas de deux. They go for a ride, spot a young girl on her bike, and follow her down a dirt road into a wheat field. Peer, the alpha male, chases the girl down and assaults her, while Timo watches numbly, both attracted and repulsed. He is a voyeur with twisted tastes; he watches but doesn’t act. Though despicable, he is pitiable, too, and wisely Odar settles — for a while — on Timo for the film’s point of view.

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