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Review: Silent Land – “Intriguing”

A picture-perfect polish couple are on a relaxing holiday in Italy, but their request for the pool to be repaired starts a chain of events that leaves the couple dealing with tragedy. Director Agnieszka Woszczynska uses a deft hand to tell this story, confidently showing and obscuring information until the right moment.

Minor spoilers ahead.

The couple Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Źulewska) share many silent moments together, but they vary from comfortable to nail-biting. One of the first lines spoken is by Adam who comments about the fan in their room: “It’s broken”. But it becomes clear that there are more things that are broken. The film is mainly in Polish but switches between Arabic, Italian, French and English. It’s a European film with a subtle commentary on European politics and immigration however the film is all about Adam and Anna’s relationship.

The film does not have a soundtrack instead it uses the ambient sounds of crashing waves and the cheery town to fill the void, there are few lines in the film at first but they punctuate the silence. This allows the relationship to unfurl in teeth-clenching silence.

As the swimming pool is fixed by an Afghanistan migrant Rahim (Ibrahim Keshk), the couple are unable to communicate with him in Polish or English. Rahim is ultimately harmless but the uncertainty of being in a foreign country is enough to heighten tensions. While fixing the pool Rahim dies in an accident. The chaos of a police investigation increases the tensions between the couple, Adam chews himself up in guilt while Anna distracts herself by enlisting in scuba diving.

The film struggles with pacing, at times the two-hour runtime can feel generous but this changes when Arnaud, a French scuba instructor arrives on screen. He injects the film with some humour and insight into the couple. As the film draws to a close there will be lots to discuss on the way home as the credits roll on an open-ended finale. Silent Lands was initially released in 2021 and some of the political commentary has changed, but the relationship between Adam and Anna is intriguing and like a car crash in slow-motion you can’t help but watch.

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