The Silence of the Sea 1949 ★★★★½

It´s all present and correct: the idiosyncratic angles and surprising cuts of the utterly self-confident autodidact. The overkill lighting and rampant shadowplay. The proclivity for extreme closeups.

But while the techniques are recognisably Melvillian in this, his first movie, the pacing and storytelling style are far removed from his later Paris-based gangster movies - and even his subsequent WW2 movie, the swashbuckling resistance epic, Army of Shadows.

The Silence of the Sea presents a microcosm of the German occupation of France. A German officer boards with an old gentleman and his attractive niece. The conqueror´s overpowering need to be loved as well as respected by the conquered is both pathetic and endearing. His hosts meet the officer´s infinite politeness and eagerness to please with an equally impotent cold shoulder.

The story of their slowly and subtly changing three-way relationship is told through the interchange of the German officer´s endless fireside monologues and the old gentleman´s later reminisces.

A beautiful and thought-provoking film. Still fresh.

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