Quietly Beautiful


Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille)
Year: 1996
Language: German
Director: Caroline Link
Cast: Sylvie Testud, Tatjana Trieb, Howie Seago, Emanuelle Laborit

This is a beautiful movie. There is no other way to say it. It is beautiful in its simplicity, and beautiful in its performances. Beyond Silence is a story of a deaf-mute couple and their daughter Lara. Completely adept at sign language, she becomes the ears and mouth for her parents. Communicating on their behalf with her teachers, the bank and even with her grandparents, little Lara (Trieb) warms your heart like no other. This is a story of the bond shared between Lara and her parents. They occupy completely different worlds, one of silence and one of sound. And yet, there is a world beyond silence, one inhabited by Lara and later by her sister, Marie where they learn to walk the tightrope between the two. Trying their best not to make their parents feel out of place while at the same time, not wanting to miss out on everything life has to offer them is an unenviable place to be.

The viewer feels the frustration and despair that the parents feel, especially since their daughters can hear. There are many poignant moments in the film and my most favourite is when Martin (Seago), Lara’s father asks her how the falling of snow sounds. We are drawn into the world of the deaf and we realise how the simplest of things that we usually take for granted, like riding a bicycle can be a task of mighty proportions for them. Kai(Laborit), her mother who never learnt how to ride a cycle because of  the issues with her ears and balance, finally learns to ride one at Lara’s insistence.

Martin’s issues with his family are also a big part of the movie. His strained relationship with his sister, Clarissa who is a clarinet player puts a rut in the relationship she is trying to build with Lara. Clarissa buys Lara a clarinet and Lara takes to it like a charm. But, will Martin’s childhood issues with Clarissa and his subsequent dislike for music, which he cannot hear, be a stumbling block in Lara’s quest for musical excellence?

One of my favourite parts of the movie is when the 18-year old Lara, who moves to Berlin to learn music from her aunt, spots a young man on the road communicating in sign language to a child. Following the two she enters the shop the shop they enter, only to realize that the young man, Tom is just like her. He is not deaf but inhabits their world, just like she does. What follows is a sweet, whirlwind romance.

I can watch this movie over and over and that is endorsement enough!

Verdict: Beautiful.
Rating: 4.5stars
Hot: Wonderful performances, especially Lara as a child. This is only the second movie, ever, that had me all teary-eyed (the first one being Barfi).
Not: Not a completely happy movie – there are some very sad moments.