The End of Silence (La Fin du Silence): Cannes Review

Dreary French drama gets literally stuck in the mud.

The Roland Edzard-directed French rural drama makes "Winter's Bone" look like the Upper East Side.

CANNES -- A morbid rural drama that makes the world of Winter’s Bone look like the Upper East Side, The End of Silence is a bleak for bleak’s sake stroll through backwater hell that never goes anywhere meaningful. First-time director Roland Edzard literally drags his characters through the mud in this tale of a deranged teen who wanders the woods with a rifle as his family falls apart. As does this problematic French indie.

Applying a shaky, handheld style that manages to build some early tension before it becomes downright unbearable, Edzard follows the travails of Jean (Franck Falise), a crazed young man who kick starts the action by trying to burn down the family house, and then banishes himself to the surrounding forests. While his parents (Carlo Brandt, Maia Morgenstern) and fiery older brother (Alexis Michalik) have zero control over the boy, Jean finds a sort of surrogate home with locals Nils (Thierry Fremont) and Ida (Marianne Basler), a couple whose idea of a weekend out is to load up their shotguns and go a-hunting.

Between performances in which every exchange is either barked with fury or mumbled with forced repression, to the increasingly violent scenarios – one which involves Jean spying on his parents through a rifle scope, his finger close to the trigger – the film shoves its hostile attitude in the viewer’s face, forgoing any sort of realism for a dreariness that loses sight of how people actually behave. There is, of course, a secret behind Jean’s madness, though by the time it becomes manifestly obvious, the drama has already flown off the rails.

With his bruised features and constant scowl, Falise is a menacing presence, but his dialogue is limited to about three or four lines, the most coherent which is, “You’re breaking my balls.” Cinematography by Frederic Serve (Les Mains libres) is overtly gritty and never pretty, turning this stormy French timberland into a place you’d most definitely avoid.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight)
Sales: Doc & Film International
Production companies: Unlimited, Poly-Son Post-Production, Galerie Heine Art Contemporain, Les Films de L’Etranger, Dor Film, Swift Productions
Cast: Franck Falise, Thierry Fremont, Maia Morgenstern, Carlo Brandt, Marianne Basler, Alexis Michalik, Anna Mihalcea, Oscar Wagner
Director-screenwriter: Roland Edzard
Producer: Philippe Avril
Director of photography: Frederic serve
Production designer: Olivier Meidinger
Editor: Pauline Gaillard
Music: Christine Ott Quartet
No rating, 80 minutes