Le Silence de la mer (film)

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For the novel, see Le Silence de la mer.
Le Silence de la mer
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Produced by Jean-Pierre Melville
Edmond Vaxelaire
Written by Jean-Pierre Melville
Jean Bruller (as Vercors)
Starring Howard Vernon
Nicole Stéphane
Jean-Marie Robain
Music by Edgar Bischoff
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Edited by Jean-Pierre Melville
Distributed by Pierre Braunberger
Release date(s) 22 April 1949
Running time 88 mins
Country France
Language French

Le Silence de la mer (English: The Silence of the Sea) is a 1949 film by Jean-Pierre Melville that takes place in 1941 and concerns a Frenchman's (w:fr:Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece's (Nicole Stéphane) relationship with a German lieutenant, Werner von Ebrennac (Howard Vernon). Von Ebrennac lives in their house during the German occupation of France. Melville based the film on the 1942 book of the same name by Jean Bruller (under the pen name "Vercors") and actually filmed inside of Bruller's own home outside of Paris. The film has been described as an "anti-cinematographic" film due to the unique method of narration used to give voice to the (mostly) silent Frenchman and his niece.[1] It was made shortly after Melville was demobbed from the French Resistance and is one of several films made by Melville on the Resistance, along with Léon Morin, prêtre and L'armée des ombres.[2]

The film is coloured by Melville's own experience of the sacrifices and the painful moral intransigence that resistance demands. An unnamed Frenchman and his niece are obliged to provide lodgings for a German officer and register their resistance by refusing to speak to him. Maintaining their silence becomes harder as the officer, von Ebrennac, talks to them, and reveals a decency and his own doubts about the war. "He's clearly related to von Stroheim's sympathetic commandant in Renoir's La Grande Illusion, a figure whose loyalty is to something greater than nationalism. His unwilling hosts-[and]the echo chamber [of] their mute opposition makes him question both himself and his mission."[3]

"Melville made the film on a very small budget. It's a remarkably assured apprentice work. Melville and his cameraman Henri Decae show considerable cinematic technique: despite much of the film taking place in a single room, they avoid any sort of claustrophobia."[4] Both von Ebrennac's monologues and the extensive voiceover mean that, the title notwithstanding, there is a significant amount of talk.


  1. ^ Batty, Adam (20 January 2011). "Culture Générale; Melville’s Le Silence De La Mer". The Hope Lies. Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  2. ^ The Criterion Collection (2013). "Jean-Pierre Melville". Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  3. ^ Moviemail, July 2007 catalogue
  4. ^ James Oliver, Moviemail, July 2007

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