Review: Silent Land

Written and directed by Agnieszka Woszczynska, co-written by Piotr Litwin, an accident upends the summer holiday of a well-off Polish couple, forcing them to confront their internal demons and the cracks in their relationship. Starring: Dobromir Dymecki, Agnieszka Zulewska, Jean-Marc Barr, Alma Jodorowsky, Marcello Romolo, Claudio Bigagli and Elvis Esposito.

While this film may revolve around something going wrong, you can tell something isn’t right with this couple long before that happens. Agnieszka Woszczynska opens the film with an interesting use of sound, feeling purposed to set you on edge, followed by a series of picturesque, relaxing visuals that are all topped with an intentionally awkward, cold tension. Putting aside not being able to trust any couple who regularly go jogging together while on holiday, the way that Woszczynska frames everything holds an air of foreboding, it’s almost menacing. The style is remarkably still which then enhances that further, adding an eery layer to the atmosphere.

The writing is similarly compelling, a quick glance and these two may look like your average couple but as time unfolds, the way that they interact both with each other and other people is fascinating. In certain moments it’s even as if they approach interacting with people as alien, their manners and tone are just removed enough to raise an eyebrow. The story has a matter of fact quality to begin with but then develops into something with an edge of mystery and unanswered questions as their relationship begins to deteriorate. A few of those questions don’t find answers which is a shame but it does deal well with the idea of our responsibility towards others in an emergency situation. Especially in the context of these two very selfish personalities, even they can’t go unaffected by the potentially fatal consequences of inaction. The pace is somewhat slow but it holds itself well to keep your attention. It also holds the air of wealth strongly, not only the jogging but the types of conversations they have and their entire approach is clothed by money.

Dobromir Dymecki and Agnieszka Zulewska portray Adam and Anna with a perfect air of coldness, self-interest and isolation. They’re creatures who mostly exist inside their own world, controlled and closed-off, bringing through difficult behaviours, poorly chosen words and impatience in the company of others. That’s not to say that they’re so far removed as to have completely unrelatable troubles, but they’re very specific personalities. As the film progresses, they open up a little more and each show a different kind of vulnerability, Zulewska’s Anna being more tied up in their relationship while Dymecki’s Adam is more of an internal battle. They portray this couple with a deft touch that makes them simultaneously feel like completely conflicting personalities and a perfect match.

Silent Land is compellingly cold, focusing on a fascinating relationship that touches upon a number of familiar themes but in a unique way. There’s a nicely chosen structure to it that harnesses the eery nature of the story before it develops into something more complex. Woszczynska’s style reflects the couple’s qualities, starting out more still and controlled then becoming more tumultuous and adding in an artistic side. There are perhaps a few more things left unsaid than would be preferred for some viewers but it’s a gripping story that moves slowly, slithering through a field of self-importance, elitism, wealth, relationships and responsibility.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Silent Land celebrates its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival on 7 March, will open the Kinoteka Film Festival on 9 March & will be released in UK cinemas in July 2022

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