Review: Silent Land
by Ola Salwa
- Aga Woszczyńska’s first feature is a quiet yet powerful drama about an accident that upends the summer holidays of a well-off Polish couple
Aga Woszczyńska’s Silent Land [+see also:
interview: Aga Woszczyńska
film profile], which was screened in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Platform section this year, revolves around a well-off Polish couple, Anna and Adam, who are spending their summer on an unnamed Italian island. Their daily routine, with certain amounts of time allocated to running, eating, drinking wine and having sex, is broken when an accident happens in the plush home they’re renting. While externally, they don’t seem to be affected by it and continue in vacation mode, the event creates a rift in their conscience – mostly Adam’s.
The inner life of the characters is the main focus of the director, who eschews dialogue and other obvious tools when portraying it. What “speaks” here for Anna and Adam is the pretty yet dry landscape, as well as the framing and sound effects, which are used in a very smart way.
Opening and closing the windows of the house is not just a mundane activity; it’s a powerful metaphor for how the characters feel about the world. There is much more visual poetry that Woszczyńska includes in the narrative in a very precise, cerebral way. Her film is like poetry itself – distilled, with every word used purposefully and carefully, and indeed, her characters bring to mind the TS Eliot poem The Hollow Men. However, Silent Land is not just observational, slow cinema; it’s also a distinct and socially engaged whisper.
Anna and Adam are a perfect, tall, beautiful blond couple (portrayed with sublime and subdued performances by Agnieszka Żulewska and Dobromir Dymecki), which is also of importance here. Their appearance and the way they carry themselves denote silent power, affluence and indifference to everything connected to people of a “lower class”. The Italian islands are some of the main European borders for refugees, and the military roams the parched land on a daily basis looking for illegal guests from Africa. The Polish couple, with their good looks and money, are welcomed heartily, and that segregation is one of the film’s strongest themes. Sometimes, it’s not what people say, but what they don’t say that’s most disturbing.
Silent Land is a Polish-Italian-Czech co-production. It was staged by Agnieszka Wasiak, of Poland’s Lava Films, and the co-producers were Giovanni Pompili (of Italy’s Kino Produzioni) and Jordi Niubó (of Czech outfit i/o post sro). New Europe Film Sales manages the international rights.
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