Silent Land: Review. By Robert Andrews.
Set on the sun-soaked coast of an Italian island, Silent Land tells the story of two Polish-born lovers, whose vacation is thrust into misery following a series of unfortunate events. With tensions rising, the longevity of their idyllic getaway threatens to unravel the very foundations of their relationship, as the pair struggle to come to terms with their own involvement in a grave matter. Despite a promising premise, Silent Land ultimately suffers from a lack of substantiated development in terms of both story progression and character growth, culminating in a project which overindulges in cinematography and underdelivers in story execution.
The deteriorating relationship between Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Zulewska) forms the backbone of the narrative, as the audience tracks their every move across the stunning Italian landscape. In spite of this, it is incredibly difficult to relate to this middle- class couple, whose time abroad largely consists of sexual intercourse, sun-bathing, and begrudging interactions with nearby residents. Their judgmental nature and cynical attitude toward everything around them, including each other, deter the audience from sympathizing with their unfortunate circumstances.
What proves far more problematic, however, is the lack of backstory each lover is afforded, the likes of which could have provided meaningful context to their relationship and the vacation itself. Their past, livelihoods, and values are entirely neglected throughout the story, leading to a spontaneous combustion of emotion and regret that is difficult to comprehend in the eyes of the viewer. Their growing resentment for one another culminates in petty squabbles and attempts to antagonize one another whilst in the company of others, though it’s often difficult to decipher the inner feelings that would motivate such self-destructive actions. Whilst the latter stages of the film delve more deeply into Adam’s insecurities, the entirety of the film fails to explore this deteriorating relationship in a meaningful way, despite being afforded almost two hours to do so.
Over the course of its run time, Silent Land makes a conscious effort to capture Italian summertime in all its beauty, with director Aga Woszczynska favoring the use of extreme long shots with minimal camera movement. Whilst these shots provide stunning backdrops and capture a growing sense of isolation, they often linger for far longer than is necessary, a frustration that is compounded by the film’s lack of meaningful story development. The story crawls along at a snail’s pace, with Anna and Adam often indulging in repeated instances of dining, jogging, and scuba diving during their sun-soaked retreat. The growing tension between the two lovers ultimately doesn’t amount to a great deal of meaningful story development, culminating in an ending that only serves to highlight the film’s lack of substantiated narrative. Whilst the execution of the final scene should be admired for its creativity, it is ultimately wasted in light of such an unfulfilling story.
Intriguing characters who can be related to or at least understood, are fundamental to a film like Silent Land, though it is often impossible to connect with either protagonist during their holiday from hell. The relentless wallowing in self-inflicted misery eventually proves tiresome, especially in light of the couple’s unrelatable first-world problems, the likes of which include a non-functioning swimming pool and their inability to speak Italian. In addition to both Polish and Italian, the film incorporates English and even French into numerous scenes, which doesn’t particularly add or take anything away from the experience, in light of more significant issues elsewhere. The performances of Dobromir Dymecki and Agnieszka Zulewska should be judged in relation to the material at their disposal, as in spite of many monotonous dialogue lines, they each turn in an ample performance and excel in revealing moments of lament and regret.
Despite a promising story premise and stunning Italian setting, Silent Land fails to deliver a meaningful viewing experience, due in large part to its unrelatable protagonists, whose internal struggles and relevant backstories are left largely unexplored. The time afforded to capture the beautiful outdoor environments could have been better spent developing the story and the relationship at its core, both of which feel rather slender and in need of substantiated growth.
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