The war movie genre is nothing new to cinema, but what Ed Ehrenberg has done with “Hear the Silence” is unique. Instead of opening the film with bullets whizzing past the camera and the flames of bursting bombs filling the background, Ehrenberg begins his story of a group of German soldiers lost behind enemy lines during WWII trying to find their way home with just a subtle voiceover.
We meet up with Lt. Markus Wenzel and his company of soldiers as they stumble upon a village in the Ukraine filled with only women and children. It's alluded that the men of the village were eradicated by the Soviet forces, but we don't really learn the truth of their fate. The troop is tired, hungry and need a place to get things together in order to continue their journey.
Once in the village the soldiers strip it of its weapons, save one, and set up camp in one of the houses requesting that all the children stay with them as insurance the women won't do anything rash. Their appearances divides the women – with some more than willing to help and a select few that are hellbent on getting the soldiers out of the village as soon as they can.
Spearheading this movement is Martha (Clarissa Langenohl). As she tries to build an alliance and bring more followers into the fold, her plan hits a snag when another woman restrains her and locks her away in an attempt to keep the peace. But even that can't stop the inevitable from happening to the quaint village.
The soldiers finally find a quicker way to get out of the village and it seems that the women will make it out of the encounter until an unexpected death sends shockwaves through the troops. Where the focus was once to leave the village as quickly as they could, they focus now shifts to just one thing – retribution. It's a decision that will not work out well for either side.
I found the film to be very beautiful with the stark, snowy landscape mesmerizing. The film also benefits from its utilization of buildings and settings of the Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok, Poland.
I really loved Langenohl's performance as Martha. Although her time is abbreviated during the middle of the film, her powerful and passion-filled performance is wonderful. Lars Doppler as Lt. Wenzel is equally as powerful and creates a wonderful bad guy to root against.
Ehrenberg's film, from a script by Axel Melzenger and Julia Peters, is slow – at times feeling too slow – but when the film reaches its final act the payoff is worth the wait. It's not your stereotypical war movie, but that's what makes it special.