Review: The Silent Revolution
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2018: Lars Kraume gives us a magnificent historical account, both intelligent and shocking, of the act of resistance of some East German students in 1956
If there is one scene in the history of cinema that will move you, it's the one in which students rally together, declaring "O Captain! My Captain!” in The Silent Revolution [+see also:
film profile]. The film by German director Lars Kraume, presented at Berlin International Film Festival in the Berlinale Special Gala section (which also kicks off in the cinema) and adapted from the autobiographical story by Dietrich Garstka, offers us situations as galvanising as any, because its impact is not pumped up by music, but by the force of the courageous words of a group of East-German high school students who decide, following a vote, to demonstrate their solidarity with the Hungarian insurgents who rose spontaneously in 1956 against the Soviet occupier via a very long minute of silence in class.
Carried by an energy that is typical of youth (powerfully brought to life by a cast of irresistible fresh-faced actors), the high school students who watch girls, dance secretly to electrifying rock tunes and wonder, faced with the "anti-revolutionary insurgency" (potentially "fascist") in Budapest, what the Western media is saying on the other side of what will soon become an impassable wall. Kraume’s film analyses the serious and complex issues of this “act of protest,” all while recounting the crescendo of the consequences of said act, poorly masked as an "apolitical" protest (also voted for by the majority).
The brilliantly nuanced analysis provided by the director of The People vs. Fritz Bauer [+see also:
interview: Lars Kraume
film profile] is about the mechanisms of membership and collective use employed by totalitarian regimes that rely on a complete absence of dissension and perfect alignment (in uniformed rows). At Stalinstadt, where school involves propagandist education accompanied by paramilitary training, it’s difficult to ignore the similarities between the new regime (where the word "friendship" has become a slogan) and the frightful regime which preceded it, used by the communist party as an ambiguous scarecrow. All while offering a range of different figures of adhesion (to an ideal, to an ideology), through the varied situations of each of the students, each carrying their own expectations of allegiance (family, social...), The Silent Revolution shows that – thanks to a framework built on unison – the socialist regime is just as quick to bring out the individual in people when it comes to denouncing the deviant and betraying each other to save one’s own skin.
While union is about the freedom of everyone, we can’t manipulate it any more than we can break the silence. It is the vibrant expression of the essence of the individual, the film seems to be saying, echoing the words of Jean-Paul Sartre on the silence of those resisting under torture: "Each of them, against the oppressors, sets about to be themselves, irremediably, and by choosing themselves in their freedom, they choose freedom for all." This is why the scenes in which something deeply human and serious plays out in total silence, are the most poignant in the film, and necessarily so. Kraume resolutely delivers a film that does exactly what most other films inspired by true facts do not do (somehow flattening history), providing us with an intelligent and finely-tuned reflection with an overwhelming, fundamentally human core that vibrates with all its strength from beginning to end.
(Translated from French)
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