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Silent Land

By Kyle Bain | September 10, 2021

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Married couple Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Zulewska) travel to Italy for vacation for the summer. However, when they arrive, things do not run as smoothly as they had hoped. It’s unbearably hot, the pool is having issues making it difficult for them to swim, and the individuals they run into are odd and uncomfortable. Silent Land tells the story of the young couple attempting to overcome adversity and keep their heads above water when things get rocky. While the most important thing is their love for one another, every couple has a breaking point.

As per the title, the film is silent for the most part. We’re not talking Charlie Chaplin silent, but rather each aspect of the movie is as quiet as humanly possible. There are moments when the lead couple can only be seen through a window or another transparent surface, and no dialogue is present. This adds to the suspense and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. This, of course, is a choice made by writer-director Agnieszka Woszczynska, and that decision pays off in the long run.

While many viewers may expect the thrilling moments of Silent Land to be high energy, keeping the temperament level allows viewers to come to terms with the emotion, acting, and overall story on their own. I never felt coerced into thinking a certain way or compelled to view any aspect of the narrative or its themes in a particular light. This cool and collected approach allowed me to come to my own conclusions and develop a stronger appreciation for the story and characters.

“…every couple has a breaking point.”

As the film progresses, there are slow, subtle changes to the dynamic between Adam and Anna. You’d have to possess a keen eye to spot the differences, but the reality is that they exist, and once viewers can see them, their perspective on the film changes. Woszczynska captures every single aspect of the couple’s journey through Italy. The dynamic change and the emotional turmoil the protagonists face are captured through a series of close-ups. Moreover, as the two struggle with their emotions, viewers are typically able to get up close and personal, making it possible to understand every feeling being conveyed.

I began watching Silent Land, expecting a dramatic movie with the odd thrill here or there, but I got a suspenseful mystery. Even as it moves so calculatedly through the story of Anna and Adam, I felt as if I was being pulled along for the ride at high speeds. That all-encompassing mystery that surrounds the couple is the driving force behind the narrative and the reason that the film is full of energy. The question always looms “what is going to happen next?”

Silent Land is invigorating, fresh, and full of life. The quiet and reserved nature of the movie exists almost ironically as, even in those moments of calm, viewers are anxious and unsure of what to expect. While there are blips of Adam at some point in the future, the story is linear for the most part. Both Dymecki and Zulewska are brilliant throughout and help develop a story of love that no one could have ever anticipated. In addition to the acting, the ongoing juxtapositions of light and dark, chaos and calm, and love and hate play a pivotal role in viewers’ reception of the film. I fell in love with the movie, as it was far better than I could have ever expected.

Silent Land screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

Silent Land (2021)

Directed: Agnieszka Woszczynska

Written: Piotr Litwin, Agnieszka Woszczynska

Starring: Dobromir Dymecki, Agnieszka Zulewska, Jean-Marc Barr, Alma Jodorowsky, Macello Romolo, Claudio Bigagli, Elvis Esposito, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

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"…far better than I could have ever expected."

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