The Silence of the Sea

The Silence of the Sea ★★★★

Steve's Large List of Stuff I Should Have Watched or Rewatched by Now

As somebody who is a voracious consumer of crime films, obviously Jean-Pierre Melville is one of my favourite directors.

That hasn't blinded me to the fact that he was an accomplished director outside of the genre he would make his name with. Le Silence de la Mer (somebody change the damn title back) is an exceptionally focused debut film that, while thematically very different from his later films, has echoes of the suspenseful character building scenes that would be important in those films.

This does start off very much as a suspense film of a very different kind as these two people play out their roles as silent objectors and it felt like it was a waiting game before somebody cracked. Nobody does and after a while it's clear that's not where Melville wants this to go, but this is far from a redemptive tale. Or at least that's what I thought.

Because while Howard Vernon's German officer may not regard himself as a Nazi, he's still extremely presumptuous regarding his presence in their home. His manner is very much of rightly assuming that there's nothing they can do about his residence, so he need not be asking questions or their opinion on his staying at their home.

I felt more satisfied by the opening two-thirds of Le Silence de La Mer than the latter stages, which I felt just pressed an emotional button too far to register as completely believable. Overall though it's a film that stylistically feels fresh and understated and has lost almost none of its power.