A hard-charging Lodz career woman is stalked, then haunted and finally enthralled by the grieving loner who accidentally caused the death of her parents during their childhood in “Silence.” Glacial drama from pen of longtime Krzysztof Kieslowski co-scribe Krzysztof Piesiewicz starts promisingly but fades precipitously after an arresting first hour or so, suggesting fest berths and some ancillary action will be the most noise pic will scare up.
On an Easter Sunday in the late 1970s, a group of boys dousing each other with water accidentally cause a single-car automobile accident when one of them drops a can from a railroad overpass onto the vehicle’s windshield. The two adults in the car are killed, leaving the newly-orphaned, six-year-old Magda clutching a teddybear and wandering up the road.
Cut to twentysomething years later, and Magda is now a successful businesswoman in the fashion industry who’s apparently emotionally empty life seems so full to her she’s packed her daughter off to the country to live with the child’s remaining grandmother.
After a tough day of executive decisions, Magda likes to do some drug-induced dancing at the local techno club, punctuated by visits to the chill-out room in back. During one of these cooling off periods, she notices the clenched-looking Simon (Bartosz Opania) watching her from the doorway. A romantic interlude in the toilet doesn’t go well for either of them, but somehow he’s left an impression on her.
Turns out train-driver Simon’s obsessed with Magda, with photos and clippings posted throughout his dark house. It doesn’t take long for Magda (and even less time for auds) to figure out Simon was the boy who dropped the water can, and has spent his life drenched with guilt and hovering around the edges of Magda’s life. But are Simon’s intentions honest or sinister? And can Magda shake off her moral torpor long enough to connect with a damaged loner in need of comfort and thus cure herself?
Unfortunately, pic moves from the promise of its metaphysically tinged genre trappings to highly illogical art-house ennui, as the pair spend way too much time traveling nowhere on Simon’s train while ruminating pensively on their predicament before an ending that indicates Magda’s carrying his baby — or does it?
Opening car wreck is similar to the awful road accident featured prominently in Tom Tykwer’s “Winter Sleepers.” But while that pic was imbued with an emotional ferocity that carried the dramatic day, there’s no such luck with “Silence.” Leads, each of whom worked in an episode of Krzysztof Zanussi’s “Weekend Stories” TV anthology, seem muffled and hesitant, while sophomore effort from helmer Michal Rosa displays little visual punch beyond the frighteningly random, precision-tooled car accident. Pic is left with nothing to bolster maddeningly cryptic character motivation and increasingly illogical plotting.
Tech credits are fine in that naturalistic yet hard-edged way that has become a hallmark of Polish films.
Per Karlovy Vary fest catalogue (pic copped the Ecumenical Jury prize there), this is the first of an eight-part series dubbed “The Stigmatized,” in which Piesiewicz will treat “the issue of human identity.”