Sunday Matinee: Le Silence De La Mer

sunday-matineeJean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur) made his first film in 1949. Le Silence de la mer was based on a novel published underground during France’s occupation by the Nazis.

Melville was in the resistance during the war and read the book and loved it. When he went to make it, he didn’t have the rights. The author Vercors (Jean Bruller) found out and Melville made him a deal. When Melville finished the film he would screen it to Bruller and 24 members of the resistance, if any of them didn’t like the movie Melville would burn the negative right in front of Bruller. Fortunately everyone liked the movie.

Le Silence de la merThe story is set during France’s occupation by the Germans. A young German officer (Howard Vernon) is assigned to stay in the house of an old man (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stéphane). The old man and his niece aren’t happy having a German officer forced into their home so they don’t talk. To him, to themselves. The officer seems to think that Germany’s invasion will lead to a beautiful union between France and Germany. The officer talks and talks and talks. And the uncle and the niece say nothing but watch him.

The movie was shot on a very low budget. Melville shot the movie in Bruller’s house and most of the move is set in one room. Despite the lack of action and dialogue from over half the cast, the movie is excellent. Vernon ends up supplying most the movies dialogue and comes off naive and sympathetic for an invading Nazi. The movie was a success for Melville and he would go on to make some of France’s best crime films Le Doulos (1962), Le Samouraï (1967) and Le Cercle rouge (1969).

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.