Silent Land: a daring drama about holidaying and white guilt

Silent Land. Image ⓒ Lava Films

A Polish bourgeois couple arrive on a sunny Italian island to relax and spend time doing little but drink by the swimming pool, have sex, read high-life magazines under the sun and eat delicious mediterranean food. As soon as their holiday begins they notice that the pool of their reserved villa on the shoreline is empty due to water shortage in the area.

For Anna (Agnieszka Żulewska) and Adam (Dobromir Dymecki), a reduced rent is not an option. They demand from the owner a fixed and filled swimming pool and that’s their only compromise. So the owner sends Rahim (Ibrahim Keshk), a young migrant without the legal papers he‘s required to have to do the job. Language barrier create an instant alienation between the three. When an unfortunate event happens, asking for an investigation by the police, the couple’s relationship transitions to a stifling anticlimax that drives both Anna and Adam to a psychological turmoil and an array of misconducts. But will they survive their dark thoughts and guilt?

Silent Land. Image ⓒ Lava Films

Aga Woszczyńska’s debut film, is a chilling story and an observation of the moral emptiness of the holidaying bourgeoisie. When asked about her biggest influences in an interview for The Irish Times, the director said, “…my biggest reference and influence is reality. I want to make a comment on reality, not just watch other films and images to put them in my own work.”

Indeed, the sequences in which the characters are going through complex emotions have a docudrama inclination. While the scenes of the couple wondering the alleys of the rural Italian village at night are reminiscent of Roberto Rossellini‘s Stromboli, Woszczyńska is also documenting island life with her refined gaze. In Anna‘s euphoria when she is asked to join in the local dance, she looses Adam. He goes adrift in the narrow streets of the stone-paved village whose community is celebrating a cultural event. But for Adam this is no longer the place he‘d imagined it to be, for their relaxing paradise.

Silent Land. Image ⓒ Lava Films

Long, captivating shots of silent forests meet passing clouds, raging waves and the moon. They are conducted by cinematographer Bartosz Swiniarski (Apples) giving Silent Land a cosmic angle in parallel to the gradual vulnerability of the characters‘ psychology. The film‘s richness is inspired by terrific performances including Jean-Marc Barr‘s (The Big Blue) and Alma Jodorowsky‘s (Blue Is the Warmest Colour). But its authenticity is in the writing, a collaboration between the director and Piotr Jaksa, that‘s powerfully reflecting on natural resources, sustainability, white guilt and human rights. You will want to watch it until the film‘s credits roll.

Silent Land is in UK cinemas from 23 September and on BFI Player from 24 October 2022.

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