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  • Le Silence de la mer (Masters of Cinema) [DVD]
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Le Silence de la mer (Masters of Cinema) [DVD]


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Product details

  • Actors: Howard Vernon, Jean-Marie Robain, Nicole Stephane
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment Ltd
  • DVD Release Date: 25 Jun. 2007
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PFUBMM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,753 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Le Silence de la mer Jean-Pierre Melville's debut film is an adaptation of the novella of the same title by celebrated French Resistance author Vercors (the pen name of Jean Bruller). Clandestinely written in 1942 during the Nazi occupation of France and furtively distributed, it captured the spirit of the moment, and quickly became a staple of the Resistance. Melville's cinematic adaptation partly shot in Vercors' own house tells the story of a German officer, Werner von Ebrennac (Howard Vernon), who is billeted to the house of an elderly man (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stephane) in occupied France. Resisting the intruder, the uncle and niece refuse to speak to the German officer, who warms himself by the fire each evening espousing idealistic views about the relationship between France and Germany. These propagandised illusions are shattered, however, when a trip to Paris reveals the truth of what is really going on. One of the most important French films to deal with World War II, and a landmark in Melville's distinguished oeuvre, Le Silence de la mer is a lyrical, timeless depiction of the experiences and struggles of occupation and resistance. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Melville's debut film for the first time on home video or DVD in the UK. Special Feastures on the DVD - Exclusive video discussion by Ginette Vincendeau, professor of French cinema at King's College London [18 minutes], 44 page illustrated booklet including an extended article by Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris, and a vintage Melville interview by Rui Nogueira, author of Melville on Melville

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 24 April 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
NB: This review discusses some plot points in the film in some detail.

Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la Mer now seems an atypical work in light of his later, more widely-known gangster films, but this 1949 adaptation of Vercors' hugely popular WW2 novella can lay claim to having influenced both Robert Bresson and the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers both in terms of its style and its production. The book was written under an assumed name by Jean Bruller and published by a (literal) French underground press during the Occupation, and it's a surprising work to have been written during the war, not demonising its central German character but rather making a kind of plea for understanding - but not understanding the enemy, rather making him understand why even his best and idealistic assumptions are so wrong.

The story is simplicity itself: Howard Vernon's German officer is billeted at a French farmhouse where the owner (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stéphane) resist in the only way they can - by refusing to say a single word to him. Introduced as a figure out of a horror film yet transformed in the same shot into a less threatening figure the moment he crosses their hearth, he's not a stereotypical Nazi thug, but rather a more sensitive and naively idealistic figure. Soft spoken and polite, he never imposes his will on his reluctant hosts but rather tries to win them over through conversation, never losing his temper at their refusal to respond like a patient suitor. He dreams of a marriage between Germany and France that will take both nations to a higher level, achieving through the reluctant use of force what pre-war politicians failed to do with diplomacy. He doesn't want an empty conquest but, rather, wants France to come willingly to its embrace.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Eyon on 22 Sept. 2007
Format: DVD
There is nothing subtle about the message in this movie. It starts out with a gentle but blatant rebuke of Germans for allowing Nazism to take over. Even the "good" Germans like the German officer in his film -- a Francophile who is understanding enuf to tolerate the silent treatment given by the old Frenchman and his niece who have been forced to allow him to board with them.

The film also seeks to exonerate the majority of French people who didn't actively join the Resistance. It seems as if the two Resistance veterans Vercors (pseudonym of Jean-Marcel de Brullers, author of the story this film is based on) and Jean-Pierre Melville are saying that those who didn't give comfort while being forced to give aid shouldn't be considered complicitous. This consolation was much needed by the French population whose cultural memory of WWII was heavily tinted by shame.

The dramatic possibilities of this story are fascinating at first. The German officer (Swiss-born actor Howard Vernon) dressed in civilian clothes joins the French couple in the evenings by the fireplace and offers monologues exploring his motives and, as proof of his civility, ending each with a bow, saying "I bid you good night". But it's a difficult plot to sustain. Fortunately the film is relatively short and ends before becoming unedurable, and in a dramatically satisfying way.

This is Jean-Pierre Melville's first movie if you discount his short documentary on the 24 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF A CLOWN (which I enjoyed). He had the director's gift right from the first altho I thought there were weak directorial moments (especially the German's visit to Paris), the fault maybe of a slim budget.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By MarkusG on 26 Jun. 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Le Silence de la mer is Melville's first film, and in his "resistance" genre dealing with France during the nazi occupation. The film is very well made, actually one of Melville's better films. Also this MOC DVD has an excellent transfer, and the extras are really interesting with Jeanette Vincendeau introducing Melville as a film maker. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin J. Kelly, Jr. on 14 Nov. 2014
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Wonderful Blu-ray of a masterpiece. BEWARE-as opposed to the Blu-ray disc, the DVD is region 0 and will not play on standard US region players. This fact is not described in the listing but is noted on the DVD disc itself.
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3 of 17 people found the following review helpful By john on 28 July 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Jean Pierre Melville was a fantastic film maker, but his 1949 debut is difficult to enthuse about. The theme of collaboration or non-collaboration would have been relevant to post-war French audiences. The silence refers to an elderly gent and his niece who adopt dumb neutrality when a nazi German officer is billeted with them. The officer performs a "good German" monologue, full of well-meaning but naive aspirations for a marriage of Franco-German culture. It is a subtle film of ideas, ironies, dilemmas and nuances. The kind of film that gives critics something to yap about, but is unlikely to engage admirers of Melville's later work.
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