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Beyond Silence  

I must say that I am far beyond mere silence as I`m writing this review; I`m beyond memory. This is what happens when I never find the time to write the review for the film which I watched two or three weeks ago. Now the experience of viewing this film is rather vague. But I think I'll be able to salvage some of what I saw.

Beyond Silence is a German film that gives us a very unusual situation. The central character is a daughter of deaf parents, which creates a very unusual dynamic. The child has full capacity of her hearing, which means that she has to be the liaison between the parents and the outside world, which creates a number of problems. Her schooling suffers (and her mother will often bug her from outside the window during class), and she has to deal with the general mundane aspects of adult life by having to deal with bankers and other authority figures as her parent's representative. Actually, I would be so bold as to say that she is the parent and the parents are the children, because the parents are the ones who need the attention.

During one Christmas holiday, the young girl gets together with her aunt and uncle. The aunt is accomplished on the clarinet, and for Christmas she gives the young girl a clarinet of her own. It is this event which will forever shape the future of the dynamic between the girl and her parents, especially her father. This is possible for a number of reasons. The father will never forget the shame and humiliation he felt as a child, when his sister, the girl's aunt, became the centre of attention for doing something which a deaf child could not understand. There is a strange flashback scene where the father as a child decides to mock the sister, apparently for looking like such a damned fool blowing on a wooden stick, and then is punished for his actions. Obviously he has not forgotten it, and feels some resentment at the daughter for taking a path which does not include him. Overall, it is not really the music which is the problem for him, but the fact that he cannot always depend on his daughter to guide him through a world that he cannot hear. While it is certainly noble to help one's parents, the fact is that a person cannot live like a servant for all hours of every day of one's life, and her flourishing interest in music reflects her desire to make something out of her own life. She needs to let go, and so does the father.

The daughter lets go in an unusual way, by finding a boyfriend who teaches deaf kids (there is an interesting display of social embarrassment when she first meets him conversing with a deaf child). She and he fall in love, and, for her, this represents her first real experience with a social life beyond that of her parents. This affair is a major source of contention for the father, since he, like many dads of many types have since the dawn of time, cannot stand to see his daughter as someone who actually has emotional and physical relations with a guy! It is difficult for him to accept the fact that she is growing up, and moving on.

The idea of the father having to let go of the child is something which happens to every family, but the twist in this movie is that he has to let go because it is she who can no longer protect him rather than the other way around. The daughter has her own life; she has boyfriends, she has the chance to have a career, and she does not want to always feel that she has to put her life on hold for her father all the time. He is so used to having her as a guide to the hearing world that her absence creates resentment, and forms a barrier between them. He has to be able to escape his occasional stubbornness and selfishness - feelings borne out of an inability to understand concepts which only make sense to those who can hear. At the same time, the daughter has to overcome her resentment towards him, and remind herself that he is family, and that she can't completely abandon him after having selflessly cared for him during her younger years. Both of them have to let go of their anger and resentment.

What we have here is a fairly entertaining movie, about a very unusual subject. Of course the film is sappy and sentimental (even though the film is German, it is owned by Disney), and everything ends happily ever after, with the proper moral messages. But foreign films don't usually pile on the goopy stuff, which means that what occurs is very tolerable, and, in many cases, very illuminating.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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