The Whisper

The Whisper


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

An isolated farmhouse, a profusion of knives, a spider in a jar, unexpected guests. The Whisper never hides where it's going, but it doesn't have to. This ten minute film is a masterclass in suspense, taking us on a journey whose destination we already know and desperately don't want to reach.

Andre and Basia are a middle-aged couple getting away from it all to spend a little time in the countryside. Andre is ready to take it easy, enjoying the opportunity to paint his model soldiers and relax in the sun. Basia, however, is on edge, and her unplaceable discomfort is infectious. Little things he says upset her, leading to unwanted arguments. Is he needling her deliberately? Are they both unhappy in this relationship? Is his tapping away with a knife the prelude to an attack, or is he just a man who loves her, struggling to maintain their connection? His reaction when she takes a shower delivers multiple layers of ambiguity. Has he grown disgusted by her? Is he dangerously possessive, or is he seeking to protect her from danger elsewhere?

That danger might arrive in the form of a young couple who stop to pitch their tent nearby. The young man is almost silent, brooding, chopping food or whittling away at a bit of wood with determined hands. The young woman, by contrast, is bright and childish, which Andre finds endearing and Basia finds threatening. At the same time, she evidently envies all that youth and energy, and finds herself drawn even further from Andre's steadying grasp.

'Whisper' isn't really a very good translation of the Polish title Szelest. 'Sussuration' would be more accurate. I's not just what is said (and unsaid) in this sparse, deftly constructed script. It's the rustling in the trees, the murmur of the river, the endless creaking of the windmill that neither man seems able to fix. It's also the slightness of the whole thing, the way it chooses to hint rather than ever speaking murder outright. That indirectness does nothing to detract from its impact. It lends the film a semi-mythical tone, steeped in cinematic lore and also in the cautionary tradition of the oldest folk tales. Have Andre and Basia simply come to the end of their story; are the newcomers there to replace them? Nothing is certain in this shifting, troubling film, except that sooner or later we will find our way to death.

Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2012
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Trouble brews for a couple when two unexpected guests arrive at their isolated holiday retreat.

Director: Leszek Korusiewicz

Writer: Leszek Korusiewicz

Starring: Maria Dejmek, Andrzej Konopka, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Agnieszka Warchulska

Year: 2010

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: Poland


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