Scandinavian 2015 Review: SILENT HEART, A Tragic Chamber Piece

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
Scandinavian 2015 Review: SILENT HEART, A Tragic Chamber Piece
Silent Heart is a fast-moving character drama that all takes place over a weekend in a country home in Denmark. The home belongs to elderly couple Poul (Morten Grunwald) and Esther (Ghita Nørby), who is dying. She plans to end her life peacefully with pills, but first arranges for the other two generations of her family to visit for the weekend, for one final but made-up Christmas.

Esther's terminal disease is a catalyst, however, for the trouble and crisis in the family's life, particularly the younger daughter Sanne (Danica Curcic) and her new stoner boyfriend Dennis (Pilou Asbæk). Esther's older daughter Heidi (Paprika Steen) brings her husband Michael and child Jonathan, and there is a family friend as well.

Domestic tensions simmer to the boil as both sisters' cause all manner of drama despite their ailing mother. There are more secrets revealed than either of them let on, and before the sad weekend comes to an end, no family member will be the same.

Despite this dramatic scenario, the lies, betrayal and bitterness remain behind pursed lips as everyone struggles to enjoy themselves and follow their mother's wishes. Sanne in particular feels immense guilt for never being there and makes up for it in a way that proves more harmful then helpful. From these moments of conflict come some of the films best scenes; a pot-smoking tutorial for the whole family, embarrassing displays of skill, and a paranoia that Esther's husband is cheating on her that the two sisters cannot shake.

Each incredibly talented part of the ensemble ensure that each scene is given the perfect dramatic weight and the result is a film grounded by time as days literally pass, but more importantly the effect this diminishing clock has on the family as Esther gets closer to being euthanized. The family tries to pull it together, but the gradual descent to mourning cannot be ignored. When Esther's time does come, it is handled in a complex yet deft way that signifies a true goodbye.

The setting is a gorgeous one; a sun-dripped hue envelops the house, signifying an end to the twilight years. The set design itself is brilliant; always appearing as an empty house despite its occupants. There is something calming about the location, and there is never doubt that there will be sadness; it lingers in each room, outside the house and on the shore.

Best described as Vinterberg's Festen meets Haneke's Amour, Silent Heart is similar plot-wise but in fact devoid of an auteur touch and is altogether more accessible as a result. The chemistry between each family member and their personal growth on this fateful weekend are conveyed perfectly.

Silent Heart is a moody, complex and rich drama with commentary on all three generations of family, each facing their own personal conflicts. It is effective then to give such drama a ticking clock in order to truly explore the complicated facets of preparing to mourn but living to celebrate it.

Silent Heart is playing as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival Australia-wide. Check the website for more information and session times.
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AustraliaDenmarkPalace CinemaScandinavian Film FestivalSilent HeartStille hjerte

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