15 June 2009


Silentium is a Latin word for 'shut up'. It is also the title of an Austrian film by Wolfgang Murnberger based on a detective novel by Wolf Haas. It revolves around a grumpy private detective stumbling into the mysterious case of a man found dead on a rooftop in the beautiful city of Salzburg. As he keeps on searching for the truth behind the death, his life is increasingly in danger.

Even though what I just wrote in the previous paragraph seems pretty banal and commonplace in an average detective story, Silentium is somehow fresh in its gothic feel and odd characters. Simon Brennder, the detective, looks more like a homeless person than a detective as his life spirals out of control. Salzburg is also transformed into a city of at once carnivalesque and mysterious atmosphere.

It turns out that the death involves a Catholic school in which there are only 33 male students. The recruitment of Filipino maids of course rouses Brenner's suspicion as he tries to unravel the whole mystery. Of course, his search leads to a series of deaths which, albeit gory as it were, are somehow made light by the general humorous tone of the film.

Of course, I don't think I need to reveal the culprit, as the viewer could probably have guessed who is behind all this after watching it for a while. In fact, the director even shows the faces of the murderers at the beginning of the film. What is more important, I believe, is Brenner's reasoning and picking up trails, coupled with his eccentric personality. In one point, he is even compared to Jesus as he is portrayed as wearing a crown of thorns. This just makes me think: in what sense is Brenner a matyr? Does he sacrifice his life and safety in order to search for a truth no one wants in the same way that Jesus preaches what nobody nowadays wants to hear? Maybe Brenner's ethics is out of place in the world where we are becoming more desentisised to evils and moral corruption.

This is sad.

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