Wealthy couple Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Zulewska) have arrived at a lavish rental home ready to enjoy their holiday on a sun-drenched Italian island. However, a broken pool instantly puts a dampener on festivities. Despite there being a water shortage, the property’s owner reluctantly agrees to have the pool filled. However, this leads to a fatal accident. Seemingly unfazed by the death, the couple are confronted with troubling truths about themselves and their relationship as their inner struggles intensify.
Director and co-writer Agnieszka Woszczynska carefully picks at various moral questions in her feature debut. Alongside shining a telling light on human nature, the film likewise highlights issues surrounding class, masculinity and prejudice. Through these questions, Woszczynska paints an unflinching and brutal picture of the human condition at its most uncomfortable, with Dynecki and Zulewska leading the way with weighty performances.
Though the title can be seen as a metaphor for the widening chasm between the couple (an interpretation the final shot solidifies by filling this space with a manifestation of their guilt), there’s likewise a literal quality to it. This is a very quiet film in which the soundtrack is dominated largely by the tranquil sounds of the sea rolling against the cliffs, or ominous rolls of thunder that punctuate key scenes. Dialogue is also toned down, with the leads often sitting in prolonged periods of silence designed to let the atmosphere soak in. Silent Land is a very serious film, but the filmmaker nevertheless manages to sprinkle in moments of wry humour to provide pockets of levity in the sombre feature.
It’s also painfully slow at points. Woszczynska does more than take her time here; she holds viewers hostage in shots that overstay their welcome long after tone and mood have been established. It’s enough to shatter immersion and bore audiences to tears. Twenty minutes could easily be trimmed from the runtime if the excess were to be cut.
Silent Land is a striking and cerebral examination of human nature. Though never intended to be light-hearted viewing, its long-winded delivery makes sitting through this one an unnecessary chore.
Silent Land is released in select UK cinemas on 23rd September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Silent Land here: