Silent Youth
"Silent Youth provides an immersive experience, so natural in style and tone that it makes the viewer feel like a voyeur."

Atmospheric and soulful, quiet and hesitant, Silent Youth is film whose own nature reflects that of its characters, a film that drifts through Berlin as if looking for something without being able to pin down what. On the surface it's the story of two young people tentatively forming a connection, but it's the uneasiness beneath the surface that is the source of its strength.

Marlo (Martin Bruchmann) is visiting the city during a break from his studies. The friend he's staying with asks if he's planning to go out and check out the local girls. He shrugs and smiles - whether from shyness or something else, it's hard to tell. In the streets, wandering around, he catches the eye of another young man, Kirill (Josef Mattes). There's a flicker of interest. It's the kind of thing a more experienced person might immediately pick up on and pursue, but neither of these youths has that degree of confidence. Instead, they watch one another from a distance, meet again by supposed accident, start up an awkward conversation.

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Coming out to a stranger can still be dangerous, and not just in Kirill's homeland of Russia, but the difficulty these youths face isn't really about that, and many straight people will easily relate to their situation. It's one thing to be open to the prospect of same sex activity; it's another to confess a desire for a particular person and negotiate everything that goes with that. In this microcosmic romance, the youths exchange phone numbers, lie around on the grass together, confess their secrets (not necessarily truthfully), and only get physical after they are already, almost incidentally naked together. Then something happens that leaves Marlo more confused than ever.

Though perhaps too slow to develop its potent premise to the full, Silent Youth provides an immersive experience, so natural in style and tone that it makes the viewer feel like a voyeur. The rawness of the characters emphasises their vulnerability and invites us to examine the defences they have built in anticipation of that. Both young leads deliver solid performances in a film that is all about communication rather than action. Much of that communication is unspoken. Berlin, meanwhile, broods in the background, its beauty and grandeur hinted at but rarely observed directly, and we are reminded that each of these young men is also forming a relationship with the city.

In equal parts troubled and winsome, this is a film that eschews romanticising romance, instead laying bare the difficulties of going from singledom to being part of a couple - if, indeed, that's what both protagonists want. Marlo and his friend chop vegetables, preparing a meal together. Kirill lives on toast and Nutella. Through their differences, they become aware of themselves.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2015
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Two young men adrift in Berlin experience a mutual attraction, but neither is sure how to respond to it.
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Director: Diemo Kemmesies

Writer: Diemo Kemmesies

Starring: Martin Bruchmann, Josef Mattes, Mathias Neuber, Linda Schüle

Year: 2012

Runtime: 73 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany


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