Ulrich Thomsen is a murderous pedophile in 'The Silence.' (Jan Rasmus Voss)
Twisted, sad and undeniably disturbing, “The Silence” is a study in the sick ways of men.
At its center are two pedophiles. But almost every man around them — from the haunted detective hunting them to the retired cop obsessed with a crime to the barking, insecure police chief — is off in some way.
The film starts with two men in 1986 watching a movie together and then going for a drive. They see a young girl on a bike turn down a country road. They follow.
The driver, Peer (Ulrich Thomsen) grabs the girl, rapes her and ends up killing her. The dumfounded passenger, Timo (Wotan Wilke Mohring), simply stares in disbelief as Peer drags the girl’s body to the car’s trunk.
Eventually we find out Peer is the caretaker of an apartment complex; Timo is a college student. After the murder, Timo leaves Peer behind.
Twenty-three years later, another young girl on a bike disappears at the same spot where the previous murder took place.
Timo, who has changed his name, married and fathered two children, knows Peer must be responsible. But he’s kept silent all these years, and he’s sure to be ruined if he’s connected to the previous murder.
Meanwhile, the police search for the missing girl. Heading up the search is newly appointed police chief Grimmer (Oliver Stokowski), a corner-cutting blowhard. But his just-retired predecessor, Mittich (Burghart Klaubner), was the investigator on the first girl’s murder case, and he pushes his way into this one, enlisting the help of the fragile Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg), a police detective still shaken by his wife’s recent death.
So essentially you have three damaged men searching for two damaged men. This can’t end well.
Timo leaves his family behind as he tries to decide what to do. Mittich reconnects with the mother (Katrin Sass) of the first victim and even goes on TV calling for the killer to turn himself in. Despite Grimmer’s interference and his own instability, Jahn forges ahead with the investigation.
Writer-director Baran bo Odar, adapting a novel by Jan Costin Wagner, holds on to some surprises here, and while he clearly paints Peer as evil, he also reserves some uncomfortable empathy for the devil.
“The Silence” is more about grief than violence, and it recognizes levels of damage. It never questions that there are bad men in this world, but it does wonder if there are good ones.
Running time: 116 minutes
At the Detroit Film Theatre