Review: Silent Sonata ★★★★★

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Directed in 2010, it took Silent Sonata four years to hit the UK ground. The film is an amazing piece of story telling, fascinatingly quirky, which, far from being a niche Slovenian war drama, depicts universal characters in a timeless no man’s land. Silent Sonata starts in medias res. There is a house, in the house live four personas. One of them, the mother, dies after a military attack. The father and his two children spend their time between surviving and waiting for the next sign of war, until a circus arrives and brings a touch of colour to the deserted land.

Purposely simple, the narrative line of the story is meant to talk universally on war and its effects. The film is deprived of dialogues. The director thus relieved his work from any language barrier whilst reinforcing the alienation of the characters. War is an abomination that cannot be grasps and expressed by words. Speechless but not silent, the characters are reduced to sounds, coughs, wheezes and death rattles without ever being able to verbally communicate. They have been humanly deconstructed: they are freaks and their strangeness comes from inside themselves.

As a result, the film doesn’t rely on conventional film narration and reaches pretty quickly an experimental state. The story line completely melts within the film material which creates a truly atmospheric experience: the viewer is slowly trapped into what seems like a dance of images and sounds. The film is squirming itself as the circus acrobats are, teasing the viewer’s gaze rather than his awareness. It is a visual fairy tale which needs feelings to be fully comprehended. Tribute to the circus arts and their quirkiness, the film is about the dreamy and magical dimension of their microcosm, which works as an escape to war horror and even death.

It is almost impossible to get information on Silent Sonata via the usual film data base. However, its rich and yet accessible website provides a wide range of material. The trailer of the front page renders the atmosphere of the film but unfortunately reduces it to a more mainstream piece than it actually is. For those who will be looking for more meaning on the experience, though, the website definitely is a key to an extensive understanding. The film has been shot in both Ireland and Croatia with artists and a crew from, mainly, all over the European continent. Presented at key festival like Cannes, Berlin and Rotterdam, Silent Sonata is finally making its breakthrough in the general audience, and, whilst it definitely won’t hit the mainstream ground, it offers a fantastic step into experimental cinema to anyone who feels ready for the experience.

Silent Sonata directed by Janez Burger, will be released in UK cinema on the 9th of May and in DVD on the 9th of June by Matchbox Films, Certificate 15. 

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Ex-Film Editor and future ex-MA student, dissecting films since 2006.

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