June 1, 2023

A QUESTION OF SILENCE: Murder Most Unusual

1982 / 97 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

In the compelling 1982 Dutch drama, A Question of Silence, three complete strangers - all women -  brutally murder a male shop owner. The crime was not planned in advance, nor did they personally know the victim. When the police come for them, each goes willingly, none denying what they did or displaying any real remorse.

The question isn’t whether or not they killed the man, but why. Criminal psychologist Janine van den Bos (Cox Habbema) is appointed to interview these ladies and diagnose them as crazy in order to expedite the trial. Unhappily-married stay-at-home mom Christine (Edda Barends) has decided to stop speaking altogether, while jovial divorced waitress Annie (Nelly Frijda) happily regails what they did without explaining why (though she does go into detail about the lavish dinner she prepared herself afterwards). Corporate secretary Andrea is more forthcoming, but also the most confrontational. 

Black Friday just got real.
The only common thread between these characters is that they’ve all been marginalized by men their entire lives, which is depicted through flashbacks during the interviews. Not only do these revelations have Janine questioning her own professional and married life (hubby turns out to be a self-absorbed asshole), the viewer is increasingly convinced these women are not crazy at all. We may not condone their actions, but we certainly grow to understand them, a feeling exacerbated by the condescending behavior of every male character when addressing these women (including Janine herself).

A Question of Silence ain’t much to look at and the score is godawful, but it’s constantly engaging (though perhaps a little frustrating for viewers seeking traditional closure). Its depiction of murder from a feminist standpoint was apparently very controversial when first released, especially since it is obvious writer-director Marleen Gorris deeply sympathizes with her four main characters. But when you think about it, the overall narrative isn’t too far removed from that of 1993’s Falling Down, which was more sensational than provocative (and definitely intended for viewers to identify with its own triggered antagonist).

Fueled by excellent performances and a sharp, perceptive screenplay, A Question of Silence is a rewarding little gem with themes that remain timely. In fact, if it were remade today, you’d probably see a slew of entitled male dumbasses screaming that it was “woke.” That alone makes this unique, empathetic film worth discovering by adventurous audiences. 


INTERVIEWS - Two individual interviews from 1982, one with director Marleen Gorris, the other with actress Cox Habbema.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Patricia Pisters.

POLYGOON JOURNAL NEWSREEL - Archival footage of Marleen Gorris winning the Golden Calf award for the film.



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