Silent Voices

Silent Voices


Reviewed by: James Benefield

The interlocking, Short Cuts and Babel-style form of storytelling makes it over the English channel with Silent Voices. The stories all revolve around a prison in France's Marseille.

After a night out with friends, 16 year old Laure (Pauline Etienne) meets young hoodlum Alexandre (Vincent Rottiers) on a bus. The two are immediately attracted to one another, and Laure gets off the bus early to be with him. She goes home, happy, with a kiss. Shortly after, Alexandre gets arrested after assaulting a policeman and is sent to jail. Laure makes the decision to continue their romance through a series of heart-rending prison visits.

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Elsewhere, there's the middle-aged Zohra (Farida Rahouadji). We first encounter her washing her dead son's body in a morgue. She wants to meet the man who killed her son - who, she learns, was his boyfriend. The boyfriend is also incarcerated at the Marseille prison.

And, lastly, Stephane (Reda Kateb), wants to be anywhere other than where he is. He's got money troubles and a failing relationship. A local mob boss offers him the chance to change this, by replacing a convict - who looks just like him - in the cells. Stephane will get reimbursed with a wad of cash that'll change his life forever.

Fehner's second film is an emotional, talky affair. It is initially highly absorbing as, like Short Cuts, the scenes are over pretty quickly. Not only does this increase tension, it keeps you on your toes. However, after this initial thrill peters out, we're left with a dour, frustrating experience.

The director was initially a documentary filmmaker, and it shows. She does seem to have a genuine concern for these people's plights, and it's moving to watch. But she bites off more than she can chew. These characters are filled with back stories and details that are derailed by the high drama. It's exhausting. There's too much going on, and the film feels relentlessly miserable because of it.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2010
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A prison in Marseille forms the centrepiece of a series of interlocking stories.
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Director: Léa Fehner

Writer: Léa Fehner, Catherine Paille

Starring: Farida Rahouadj, Reda Kateb, Pauline Etienne, Marc Barbé, Vincent Rottiers, Julien Lucas, Delphine Chuillot

Year: 2009

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2010

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