Silence & Darkness: Review
How better to roll in a 2020 Christmas than with a review of a Hitchcockian thriller in which the characters learn to question everything they’re told and begin to wonder, am I really loved?
The directorial debut of Barak Barkan, Silence & Darkness, is atmospheric, suspenseful & shocking. Two disabled sisters; Anna (Mina Walker), blind, Beth (Joan Glackin), deaf, live a symbiotic life sharing chores, meals, films and even music together along with their seemingly loving father in a small isolated town.
What can go wrong here? Well, of course, it’s everything.
The opening 20 or so minutes is about building character. Through snippets, often less than 10 seconds of a scene, Barkan builds his characters up. Flitting between quiet moments, inactivity and boredom we build these seeming infant like young adults, picturing their isolation, understanding them and their love for one another.
The narrative is built on faith, intuition and guesswork. You think you know who they are, and what is going on, and that is point. You don’t know, but you feel like you do. Barkan brilliantly builds simple trustworthy characters only to break them down before our very eyes.
Slowly we see pieces of information in passing moments, usually from characters outside this internal bubble. Trust is broken, questions asked, and slowly but surely we, alongside the sisters, begin to question the truth and question motivations. We begin to understand their father, a doctor, and his strange sexual relationship with a patient.
We see his insistence the girls suffer from illnesses & viruses that debilitate them, his dismissal when a bone is found outside his house and his violent reaction to mention of their mother. Jordan Lage’s portrayal of a psychotic character is brilliant, reminding me of impressive performances from Stanley Tucci IT is one that matches perfectly the equally brilliant performances from Waker & Glackin.
The suspense and the reveals are dealt with initially through muted moments, until the very closing scenes of Silence & Darkness when Barkan throws subtlety out of the window, and I loved it! Barak is hugely successful in his use of the unknown and the unseen to build suspense throughout. He’s also apt in his direction alongside Omar Nasr’s cinematography to use broken and blocked shots to create an eerie vessel in which we feel as is we’re looking through a lens at this family. This interesting technique honed, I imagine, by watching every European and Scandinavian thriller out there is incredibly well done and is sure to build a strong future for Barkan.
Although Silence & Darkness does take in the dip in middle which is it’s only real negative it’s worth it to struggle through and reach a thoroughly satisfying end. Silence & Darkness is a triumph of indie cinema, and I can fully see why it won Best Feature at the 29019 DC Independent Film Festival. You can view the trailer below, it’s well worth a watch.
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