Los Silencios (2018) ‘TIFF’ review – A Supernatural Meditation through the Arms of Tragedy

Somewhere around the first quarter of Los Silencios, our protagonist Amparo finds herself inside a fishery looking for a job. Her potential boss tells her about different kinds of fishes. One particular fish, The Catfish, is mentioned to be relatively easy to catch but requires one to be fast in order to spot them. In hindsight, that itself explains the storytelling equipment used in Los Silencios. There are moments leading up to the big reveal, and the clues are placed throughout the film, that happens quite openly and briskly.

Los Silencios, which translates to ‘The Silences’, is director Beatriz Seigners’ sophomore feature which displays dramatically different overtones than her debut, Bollywood Dream. While Bollywood Dream indulged in a more documentary-like sensibilities, dealing with three Brazilian actresses trying their luck in the Indian film industry, Los Silencios takes a more toned down dramatic approach, traversing through the identity of being a poverty-stricken refugee in the crisis-hit South American country of Columbia at the hands of the triumvirate of the conflict.

In the midst of an increasing inclination towards telling stories about refugees, Los Silencios takes us into the previously uncharted territories of narratives and geography


Los Silencios
Adolfo Savinvino as Fabio (Credits – Pyramide Films)


Taking place on the island of Le Isla de la Fantasia in the muddy backwaters of the Amazon, Los Silencios narrates to us the story of a mother Amparo, her daughter Nuria and her son Fabio settling in the colony of the island, away from the fights in Colombia. Amparo tries to find a job while maintaining schooling for her children and a sense of self-respect in the chaotic world. It examines the hurdles and the hardships that refugees face in daily life, along with the rejection and poverty that accompanies it. Things turn on their head, when Adeo, the family patriarch who was thought to be lost, reappears and integrates himself into the family life once again. Slowly veering off in fantasy, the film deals with the refugees attempting and establishing contact with the dead victims and seeking their advice. Set in the often undiscovered world of refugees in South America, Los Silencios constantly juggles two genres in between the harsh realities of the refugee life and the luminescence of life after death, giving a point of view to the victims who will never walk amongst us again. The dichotomy of the two parallels in the film is something that demands attention.

The sorrow of the characters permeates every frame of the film and carries on through the entirety of its running time. Amparo’s aunt, a seasoned veteran of the village, is one of the more interesting characters of the film, her joy of welcoming her niece into the village is clearly masking the pain and sadness this reunion is causing her. The juxtaposition of the emotions is prevalent throughout the film, not only in Amparo’s aunt but also throughout any moment of joy the characters experience in the film. Dona Albina’s expert performance in the role provides a sense of urgency and necessity in Amparo’s plight, giving a support system to Amparo. Her role of mediator between the members of the village and that of the living and the dead sets the essence of the film

Lacking colour and almost wholly serene, the visual aspect of Los Silencios deserves note

Los Silencios
Enrique Diaz as Adeo and Marleyda Soto as Ampero (Credits – Pyramide Films)

Set against a poor and rustic background, Los Silencios uses the serenity of its setting to establish a bleak and mournful atmosphere. What works about this technique is that it visually sets the tone for the film and lends cinematic beauty to its subject. Involving the supernatural, the bleakness lends a touch of fantasy and eerieness that bears fruits in the closing moments of the film. Strewn with camera work that highlights human bonding, conflict and the finer unspoken moments of life that exists during times of distress, there is some uncanny quality to the visual tone of the film that foreshadows the pain and anger felt by everyone. The particular scene of the villagers communicating with the dead about their opinion about the ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC showcases the emotions at its peak. The ending of the film in all its luminescent mourning and liberation of the trapped souls leaves you melancholic with a slight undertone of depression.

Where the film did not match up to itself is its pacing. The first 45 minutes of the 88-minute film sees itself rounding out very very slowly, unsure of how to move on with itself, and progressing with inhibition. A montage of more random happenings envelope the timeframe and seeming moments that do very little to forward the story finds itself consuming a lot of screentime. While the film does emerge victorious in the end, it may display complacency to have the entire film paying off on the heels of the last 25 minutes. Nonetheless, Los Silencios bravely ventures out into unexplored narrative combinations to tell a powerful social tale without walking on the path to preachiness, combining refugees and ghosts to form a sad and heartbreaking tale of those who are caught in a half a century old war of ideologies.

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Jack of many trades, but a master of none. A businessman by profession, but a chef by heart, Dipanjan has his hands dirty with photography and photoshop. He would spend all his day sleeping if he could, and makes the same resolution of losing weight every year(but to no avail) . Also has two daughters, which are actually dogs, but sshhh we don’t tell him that.

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