×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Silent City

A fish-out-of-the-water story that juxtaposes realism with surreal touches, "Silent City" recounts the experiences of a young Dutchwoman who travels to Tokyo to master the art of filleting fish.

With:
With: Laurence Roothooft, Makoto Makita, Shinji Otani, Ayako Kobayashi, Yukari Uekawa, Gen Shimaoka, Hubert Fermin. (Japanese, Dutch, English dialogue)

A fish-out-of-the-water story that juxtaposes realism with surreal touches, “Silent City” recounts the experiences of a young Dutchwoman who travels to Tokyo to master the art of filleting fish. Even before she’s gutted her first anchovy in the restaurant kitchen of her strict and oft-silent Nipponese master, the protag’s pretty much lost in translation, though sophomore scribe-helmer Threes Anna knows how to render emotions nonverbally, as telling visuals and sound. This San Sebastian world preem is first-rate fest material and could appeal to adventurous boutique distribs. Pic was released locally Oct. 4.

Open-faced Rosa (Flemish newcomer Laurence Roothooft, terrifically expressive) arrives in Tokyo at the restaurant where she’ll be taught how to harmonize fish and knife. Though the endless days of practicing ahead of her will make her a better filleter in the long run, the girl finds it hard to strike a balance between work and play in her almost alien surroundings.

None of her fellow students, all Japanese, or the restaurant staff speak much or any English, and the famous chef, Master Kon (Makoto Makita), basically seems to use his apprentices as unpaid laborers, tucked away in a separate, neon-lit kitchen where fish is cleaned but not otherwise prepared. Not easily scared away, Rose perseveres, trying to befriend the girl she shares a dingy room with, Aki (Ayako Kobayashi) and eventually moving into a room of her own and a nighttime job at a hostess club.

Novelist, playwright and filmmaker Anna, whose debut, “The Bird Can’t Fly,” starred Barbara Hershey, here again adapts one of her own novels, transforming the book’s stream-of-consciousness format into tableaux that translate how Rosa feels, without relying on voiceover or a lot of dialogue. There’s a little bit of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” here, naturally suggested by the young Westerner-in-Tokyo setup, but since the film lacks a male co-star (there’s no Bill Murray character to share the loneliness with), Anna can dig deeper into the feelings of her protag.

There are literal moments of frustration, such as a scene at an enormously busy train station where Rosa shouts, in desperation: “Does anybody speak English?” But her dissatisfaction slowly takes on more surreal and visually explicit forms. She occasionally starts to voice her concerns in Dutch rather than English, certain that no one will understand. Some dreamlike images also start to slither into the narrative, such as the sight of Rosa with a live fish flapping in her mouth, offering visually potent psychological clues to what the character is feeling.

Absent a lot of meaningful dialogue, the use of sound takes on even greater prominence, masterfully designed by Paul Gies and Marc Lizier. Ace lenser David Williamson also focuses on the heightened senses of Rosa, especially in the many closeups that show the protag dealing with the fish directly, which stresses their almost otherworldly tactile qualities. From there, it’s not hard to draw a line to the otherworldly people that surround the apprenticeship that she’s also trying to get a handle on.

Visuals are beautifully composed, with lighting that’s a touch expressive in terms of color use, with a tinge of slightly sickly green that underlines the artificial qualities of the surroundings. Costume design also helps color-code the proceedings, with the young woman’s predilection for bright reds, a hue apparently unknown to her colleagues, the most obvious example, as it makes Rosa constantly stand out from the crowd. Production design artfully conceals that most of the film was actually shot in co-producing Luxembourg rather than Japan.

Silent City

Netherlands

Production: An A-Film release of a Keyfilm presentation and production, in association with Samsa Film, Skyline Entertainment. (International sales: Nonstop Sales, Stockholm.) Produced by Hanneke Niens, Hans de Wolf. Co-producers, Jani Thiltges, Jan Theys, Eric Wirix. Directed, written by Threes Anna, based on her novel "De stille stad."

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), David Williamson; editor, Wouter Jansen; music, Jerome Reuter; production designer, Rosie Stapel; art director, Paul Rouschop; costume designer, Magdalena Labuz; sound (Dolby Digital), Paul Gies, Marc Lizier; line producer, Jose van Doorn; assistant director, Anne Luigjes; casting, Matijs Wessels, Maaike van Soest, Isabelle Constantini. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (New Directors), Sept. 22, 2012. (Also in Netherlands Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Laurence Roothooft, Makoto Makita, Shinji Otani, Ayako Kobayashi, Yukari Uekawa, Gen Shimaoka, Hubert Fermin. (Japanese, Dutch, English dialogue)

More Film

  • shanghai skyline China Placeholder

    Shanghai: Er Dong Pictures Adds to Web of Hollywood and Chinese Deals

    Chinese production and talent company Er Dong Pictures shed some light on its latest film investment slate and growing web of relationships in Asia and Hollywood. The company, which is in the process of establishing a joint venture with Hollywood talent firm The Gersh Agency, and has a 12-film co-funding deal with Starlight Culture Entertainment, [...]

  • Tony Hale Forky Toy Story 4

    'Toy Story 4': Tony Hale on the Joys of Voicing a Plastic Spork Named Forky

    The lastest plastic hero to join the “Toy Story” franchise is Forky, a disposable spork who has some serious qualms about being a toy. He comes to life in “Toy Story 4” alongside Woody and Buzz Lightyear, who teach him that he’s much more than trash. Tony Hale, the actor best known to audiences as [...]

  • And Then We Danced

    Swedish Outfit French Quarter Steps Into TV With Graphic Novel Adaptation

    Swedish production company French Quarter, the outfit behind Cannes Directors’ Fortnight entry “And Then We Danced,” is venturing into TV with a web series adapted from Henrik Bromander’s graphic novel “Kurs I självutplåning” (“Course in self-annihilation”). The comedy series has been commissioned by the Swedish broadcaster SVT, as first reported by Nordic Film & TV [...]

  • Mindy Kaling (L) and Director Nisha

    Women Directors and Writers Make Gains in Independent Films But Lag on Parity

    Women directors, writers, editors and producers are making inroads, reaching historic highs in the world of independent films — while still lagging in reaching parity with men, a new study shows. The latest Indie Women study, released Tuesday, found that women achieved record-setting levels as directors (33% in 2018-19, up from 29% in 2017-18), writers [...]

  • David Shin

    Disney Shuffles Management in Hong Kong, Australia

    Disney has reshuffled its management in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australasia following the March completion of its 21st Century Fox takeover. In Hong Kong and New Zealand, Fox executives have been elevated. In Australia and New Zealand, Disney’s management is staying on. David Shin has been appointed VP and GM of The Walt Disney Company [...]

  • SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 17: Liu

    Shanghai: Chinese Movies Dominate AACTA Asian Film Award Nominations

    Chinese sci-fi hit “The Wandering Earth,” China’s Cannes competition film “Wild Goose Lake,” and Korea’s Palme d’Or-winning “Parasite” are among the nominees for the AACTA Award for best Asian film. The nominees were announced on the margins of the Shanghai International Film Festival. The winners will be announced Dec. 4 at the Australian Academy of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content