Beyond Silence, about the hearing daughter of deaf parents who becomes a musician, has "uplifting" and "life-affirming" stamped all over it. What's most surprising, then, are the ways that director Caroline Link makes this formulaic story not only idiosyncratic but deeply felt.
In the opening scenes, 8-year-old Lara (Tatjana Trieb) is seen interacting with the adults who will shape her life. First is her Aunt Clarissa (Sibylle Canonica), who is teaching Lara to ice skate, but can't help showing off: The tail ends of her coat and long red hair are sent flying by her flashy moves.
Later, Lara is awakened by thunder and heads for the safety of her parents' bed. Martin (Howie Seago) and Kai (Emmanuelle Laborit) are sleeping undisturbed, but Lara awakens her father to tell him in sign language about the storm's frightening aural effects, and he comforts her.
The relationship between Lara and her parents is one of intense love blended with interdependence. Lara serves as her parents' interpreter, their link to the hearing world. This fact makes an already precocious child preternaturally serious and very conscious of her familial responsibilities.
When Clarissa gives Lara a clarinet, Martin sees it as an unwanted outside intrusion into their closeknit, nurturing household. Lara, who plays to emulate her aunt, finds she has real talent. But her love of clarinet music is interwoven with guilt: She excels at something her parents will never be able to comprehend.
Director Link (who co-wrote the screenplay with Beth Serlin) brings these conflicts to a head when an adult Lara (Sylvie Testud) goes from her parents' rural household to Clarissa's Berlin to audition for a prestigious music conservatory.
Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, Beyond Silence is by-the-numbers predictable. But Link's poetic visual style captures the fluid grace of sign language and finds unexpected beauty in even the most mundane moments, while very strong performances transform the characters from simplistic archetypes into testy individuals.
Lara's struggle to reconcile her independence with the needs of her family may be universally familiar, but it's also her own.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.