My LIFF got off to a fairly gentle start with the sad, understated La Silence de la Mer. Jean-Pierre Melville takes us through Vercors‘ novel of the same name which sees a German officer stationed in with the French narrator and his niece in occupied France. The French pair don’t have a lot of choice about giving up their spare room to an enemy officer and, lacking any other form of resistance, choose to pointedly ignore him.
I won’t wander too deeply through the rest of the plot, suffice to say that it turns out some Germans were nice people, bought into the propaganda lies of a happier, German-er Europe flourishing once the Nazis had triumphed. Needless to say, he soon learns things are not as he has been led to believe. The film handles its subjects delicately, choosing to focus words rather than images – almost all the of the film takes place in the front room of the French hosts’ house. We meet few characters, still fewer are seen speaking. Undeniably moving and carefully crafted, it’s perhaps just a little bit too delicate for my tastes.