Scandinavian Film Festival Review: Silent Heart (Stille Hjerte)

Scandinavian Film Festival Review: Silent Heart (Stille Hjerte)

A superb Danish drama about the acceptance of death when family & friends are brought together for what turns into a bittersweet weekend for all.

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I’ll admit it, Silent Heart knocked me down, in an emotional sense at lease. It shocked me, moved me and made me have to take a short breather away from the film.

Silent Heart, directed by Bille August, is a superbly made Danish drama about the acceptance of death. Cheery, I know.

Esther (Ghita Nørby) brings three generations of her family, and a few friends, to her peaceful farmhouse to enjoy a bittersweet weekend together before she makes a rather ultimate decision. Throughout the days, numerous dramas arise among the family members that threaten to spoil their fragile happiness, especially between Esther’s two daughters, Heidi (Paprika Steen) and Sanne (Danica Curcic).

Right from the start, Silent Heart packs on the atmosphere. Aided by the sleet grey of the Danish countryside, this atmosphere builds gently throughout the initial greetings until it’s almost unbearable. There are many well-placed and well-performed subtleties to pick up on during the interactions between characters. A hesitation before a kiss or a laboured smile gives the game away and hints at something painful underneath. This continues even through dialogue, so keep your ears peeled.

Nørby, already a star of Danish cinema, pulls off a tremendous performance, able to hold her body back and portray a very ill, but very determined woman convincingly. Steen is also fantastic, even if her character can become a little insufferable. Steen and Curcic are extremely convincing and raw performers. Even if they don’t look anything alike, you could still be convinced they are real sisters with a long history of bottled up emotion.

There’s definitely a whole lot of drama going on in such a small setting! The homeliness of the filming location makes you feel like you could actually sit down, cuddle up and talk to the characters over a glass of cognac. It’s painfully real, which makes the emotional turmoil of the characters even more powerful.

Of course, Silent Heart is not something to face in a negative frame of mind! It’s sad, sure, but more than that, it is draining and melancholic. The strategy of using very little sound and long-drawn out scenes to enhance emotion can wear on the viewer quite a bit. Nevertheless, Silent Heart is arresting enough to keep you locked in your seat and lapping up every last second of the movie, just as the family try to make the most out of their special weekend.

Silent Heart is a fine example of Scandinavian drama, and a fine example of how to make a movie in general. It’s not flashy, but still compelling. Not thrilling, but still exciting. It’s one of those once-in-a-decade dramas that simply ticks all the boxes, for this reviewer at least.

Bring tissues.

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating out of 10:  9

Silent Heart will screen on 23 July 2015 at part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, running 22-29 July 2015 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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