Movie Review By Andrea Chase
"Beyond Silence" by German filmmaker Caroline Link, is about misunderstandings within a family that arise despite everyone's best intentions. That the gulf is between family members who are deaf and those who are hearing does not diminish the universal nature of the story.
The focus of the film is on Lara, the hearing child of deaf parents. We meet her when she's a child and her parent's link to the hearing world. The society in which they find themselves does not recognize signing as a proper language. Interpreters are hard if not impossible to come by and so Lara finds herself in the odd position of being a part of the adult world. She's pulled out of school to translate financial meetings with bankers, for example. She also sometimes finds herself the sole means of communication between her parents and her teachers, a situation she smoothly manipulates to her advantage. Lara's not a bad kid, though, just one open to temptation when the situation arises. And, perhaps, latently resentful of her parents dependence upon her.
When her hearing aunt, a musician, introduces her to the clarinet, Lara in enchanted, but the newfound passion dredges up the past and the rift between her father and his sister, as well as precipitating a new crisis. Lara has entered a world her parents cannot share. As an adult, Lara's dreams of a career in music threatens to separate them even more definitively.
Link has made a beautiful film. The scene of a deaf church service as the camera slowly pans over worshipers signing in unison is unexpectedly moving. Lara's father explaining his appreciation of snow shows that deafness is not always a handicap, sometimes, it's an advantage. But mostly, it's the way she demonstrates over and over again in quiet moments with subtle performances from her actors the real joy of making a deep emotional connection to another human being.
"Beyond Silence" is a story of love, acceptance, and the tenuous nature of the relationships. The ultimately hopeful message is that our differences are only that, the barriers they become are of our own making.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 5/10/98
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