In Silence (V tichu) (2015)
In Silence (V tichu) (2015)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: March 27th, 2015 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Zdenek Jirasky Actors: Judit Bardos, Jan Ctvrtnik, Jan Gallovic, Dana Kosicka, Valeria Staskova, Kristina Svarinska

 


 

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here’s something stylish and quaint about black and white footage, here designed to be representational of archival materials and newsreels that play out to a theater audience. Grain and artifacts frequent the more realistic, completely silent clips, though the authenticity all but disappears for the story proper, manufactured with little more than dated clothing and a slight sepia tint. The high contrast, crystal clear imagery simply doesn’t match the unrestored splices – though the distinction is obviously purposeful in presenting fictional reenactments.

In an unexpectedly strange maneuver, a dance sequence manifests from nowhere, with several young men competing for the attention of a woman aboard a train. Their toe-tapping techniques then suddenly give way to titles onscreen, detailing Jewish musicians. The first one up is Karol Elbert (Ján Ctvrtník), born in Trnava and a student of the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava – introduced with another dancing number accompanying his speedy piano keying. Subsequent artists similarly receive their own brief segments of performances, which they narrate offscreen, as if reflecting on these visualized moments in their lives.

Famous pianist Edith Kraus (Judit Bárdos), graduate of the Academy of Music in Berlin, recounts her soloist achievements with the Karlovy Vary Orchestra at the age of eleven. Dr. Arthur Chitz (Ján Gallovic) from Prague is a historian of music and a pianist, composer, and conductor. He was also musical director of the drama company in Dresden. And from Poland, Alica Flachova is a gifted ballet student. The assemblage of characters is almost a documentary, with real people portrayed by actors in biographical skits. Great care is taken to contrast idyllic asides in the country, where freedom and creativity can flourish and where beauty surrounds everything – before the darker moments of history take hold.

“When things turn bad, we’ll just fly away.” Seemingly overnight (in May of 1939), under the Ordinance of the Slovak Government, countless Slovaks are now only Jews, restricted from being members of the Music Chamber, from working anywhere, from visiting playgrounds, pools, theaters, or parks, and from using any means of public transportation. Disbelief of the concentration camp rumors, of the escalating violence, and of the persecution lasting for too much longer are affronted by dreary, colorless scenes of the Hlinka guards organizing raids, the stripping away of Jewish identities, and the herding of victims into tight quarters. The standard World War II horrors depicted certainly clash with the serene and energetic opening introductions.

Continuous music plays in the background over uncomfortable recreations of the Holocaust and in the foreground by the central subjects as they conduct, practice, or give concerts just prior to being hauled away. If the point is to highlight the salvation qualities of art, “In Silence” fails to demonstrate any such elements more impactful than Karol’s yearning to reunite with his wife, Eliska (Kristína Svarinská). Reveries are shattered by dire realities and hope is numbed by aggravating silence as two separated lovers await closure – but the music slowly dwindles away. Arthur’s muse Gertrud (Dana Kosicka) and Edith longing for her dog Pluto present additional survivors searching for their lost partners, though neither is given enough screentime to justify taking it away from the more poignant storylines. It’s evident that “In Silence” didn’t really know what it wanted to be (the editing is equally undecided), splitting its efforts between being an account of the Holocaust’s destruction of Slovak’s great artists (of which too many are featured to do any one tragedy properly) and a dramatized document of those artists’ experiences during the ‘40s.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10

 

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