A Question of Silence

Where most “message” movies fail is their insistence on underestimating their audience.  Nothing is more insulting that sitting through life lessons aimed at the lowest common denominator.  Then there are films like Marleen Gorris’ A Question of Silence (1982) which tackles rampant misogyny, criminal bias and radical feminism with such awe-inspiring skill you wonder why it’s not even ranked in Sight and Sound’s 100 Best Films of All Time…let alone not in the top ten!

Three women are arrested and charged with the murder of a male boutique owner, leaving his body and genitals brutally mutilated.  The crime baffles investigators all the more since the female perpetrators seem to be complete strangers – a housewife, secretary and waitress – with no prior history of violence.  The psychiatrist assigned to the case (Edda Barends) finds herself curiously intrigued by their fatalistic attitudes and sympathetic to their plight.  But when it comes time to render judgment on their sanity her own subconscious is caught between justice based on the law…and one based on gender.


A Question of Silence is a stunning piece of work, all the more so considering 
Gorris had no filmmaking experience prior to winning the Best Film at the Netherlands Film Festival with this her debut feature.  It’s not the message that makes the film so powerful, it’s the way she tells the story. Unfolding with the clinical aloofness of a Cronenberg sci-fi mindbender, Gorris cloaks her non-linear plot in an almost supernatural mystery.  And as the motive behind the murder comes to light, A Question of Silence takes on an air of apocalyptic social repercussions.  Ending on a magnificent “What if?”, it challenges audiences of both genders to take sides on a touchy subject…40 years before the #MeToo movement even got traction.  Now that takes balls!


Here's hoping Cult Epics new Blu-ray provides much needed exposure.  The 2K HD transfer and restoration looks just fine, awash in natural film grain (perhaps blown up from 16mm?) but never distractingly so.  Extras include an audio commentary, interviews, trailers and promotional gallery.





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