MFF 2019: A Certain Kind of Silence – movie review

A Certain Kind of Silence. Image credit: Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

For the first time, I’ve been granted press accreditation for the Milano Film Festival – which is becoming one of the most prestigious European film festivals. With a selection of 27 feature-length films and over 41 short movies, the main theme of this year’s MFF is “coming-of-age” stories, told in every kind of genre you can think of: on this website, you’ll find reviews of every horror-related film at the festival, plus a few articles on other movies that you’ll find in the Beyond Horror section of the website. This is my review of A Certain Kind of Silence (Michael Hogenauer, Czech Republic/Netherlands/Latvia, drama/horror).

Structured and presented as a psychological horror/thriller, A Certain Kind of Silence is the debut feature from Michael Hogenauer. Something that you won’t believe to be true if you watch the film: in the impeccable style of Michael Hanake (probably the best filmmaker alive) and Jack Clayton, A Certain Kind of Silence centres around Mia, an au pair from Prague who moves to Germany to live with a wealthy couple and their son (Sebastian). From the get-go, the house rules feel very strict and odd, but they become eerie, terrifying and disturbing as the film progresses.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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Very accessible in comparison to every other film at the festival, A Certain Kind of Silence is almost entirely spoken in English, with the introduction of subtitles only when the main character speaks Czech, while the very few lines in German aren’t subtitled (on purpose). The movie, also, follows a very traditional narrative (with the typical three-act structure) and truly isn’t complicated to follow, even for those audience members who’re only versed in mainstream cinema. On top of that, the visual presentation is very precise and standardised: A Certain Kind of Silence is impeccably shot, storyboarded and edited, but it never presents itself in an artsy or difficult-to-grasp fashion.

This is a film that grabs your attention from the very first shot and, with immaculate pacing, doesn’t let you go for a second: the commendable lack of music and soundtrack (aside from two brief instances) only enhances how much care was put into the visuals that perfectly convey tension and the characters’ state of mind. A Certain Kind of Silence also relies on perfect performances from everyone involved, from the leads down to the extras that only make small movements on camera. However, the child actor who plays Sebastian truly earns the screen presence like no other children (aside from those who appear in Hanake’s movies): his understated, genuine and multi-layered performance is something even renowned actors should learn from.

A Certain Kind of Silence also features quite a few twists and turns that you might not expect from this certain kind of filmmaking: every reveal is shown from Mia’s perspective in an incredibly subtle way, so that the sense of realism feels enhanced and, therefore, the impact is vastly augmented.

On top of all that, this movie is very closely based on true events revolving around the cult known as Twelve Tribes: I advise you not to look anything up prior to watching A Certain Kind of Silence, so the impact will be even more disturbing. These events are truly unbelievable and gut-wrenching, which add an extra layer of fascination to this marvellous picture.

Whilst A Certain Kind of Silence is my favourite film of this edition of the Milano Film Festival, I do have some minor issues with it: as a movie that refuses to manipulate emotions through soundtrack, the only two instances in which music is added in post-production feel quite misplaced. There is, also, a continuity error regarding Mia’s boyfriend, who disappears from the story for no apparent reason. Finally, things escalate violently in a way that feels too quick and I wish the movie had a longer runtime to explore that aspect more in-depth.

Together with Midsommar, A Certain Kind of Silence is the 2019 movie that explores cults in the best way possible: while Ari Aster’s picture analyses a sect from a broad perspective, though, the Czech movie does that in a more restrained way, observing it from the point of view of a victim. It’s a fascinating story told in a masterful way and I can’t recommend this film enough.

A Certain Kind of Silence                            8/10

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