“Le Silence de la Mer” was one of the most famous books written during the occupation of France. Written by Vercors, it was printed and distributed by the underground. While the book was a beautiful piece of work the screen adaptation unfortunately is not so well done. The pic will definitely run into trouble in the States because dialog, the most important thing in the picture, will be lost on American audiences.
A good majority of the scenes take place in a living room with little or no action on the part of the characters. The pic is a psychological study of a niece and her uncle who give a billeted German officer the freeze. They refuse to speak to the Nazi, and he, in turn, a cultured person, is forced into one monologue after another.
Howard Vernon is the only one who has a chance to act in the film and as the German officer he turns in a convincing job. The interiors are dull and there is nothing visual to hold the viewer’s attention.
The music sets the mood, but by sticking too close to the book, director Jean-Pierre Melville has turned “Le Silence de la Mer” into a still photograph rather than a moving picture.