Review: Frozen Silence (2011)

Frozen Silence is an inventive, but not always entertaining, genre mash-up that works more often than not.

Frozen Silence is an adaptation of Ignacio del Valle‘s novel El tiempo de los emperadores extraños. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read it, because nothing really matters in the end. This is a godless universe, and on your deathbed you will not be judged at all, let alone for your ability to stay abreast of Spanish war novels (as impressive as that might be).

The novel and the film share a story, and it is as follows: two soldiers come across, in an incredibly beautiful and eerily shot scene, a battalion of troops frozen fast in a Russian lake. They’re part of the Blue division, a troop of Spanish soldiers stationed in the frozen wastes of Soviet Russia during the second world war. One of the bodies has a slit throat, cut from ear to ear, and the words “Watch out, God is watching you” cut into his neck and chest. Arturo Andrade (Juan Diego Botto), the soldier who discovers the body, is tasked with heading up the investigation. In his civilian life he was a republican police inspector, so his teaming up with the Franco-supporting Sergeant Estrada (Carmelo Gómez) makes for some humourous and heart-warming buddy cop moments.

Suffice to say, once the bodies start to stack up, darker and more bizarre theories come to the fold involving the freemasons, or someone taking revenge against collaborators, and the investigation that Estrada and Andrade are forced to embark upon is daunting. Luckily, the cast are fantastic and commit to their roles ably, even though the material isn’t always as strong as it should be. A lot of the dialogue is no doubt lost in translation, as is much of the political message, but the performances and the cinematography see the film through.

The ending lets the film down in a lot of ways, as it holds no surprises, so that’s the impression you take away with you as the credits roll. It’s also slightly too long; nearly two hours for a film with such a slim premise isn’t necessary. For all its beauty, Frozen Silence should have been more tense, more exciting, and carry more emotional weight. The ending should have impact and resonance, not just tie everything up in a pretty but ultimately hollow package. A good film if you don’t think too much about it, and you’ll probably have forgotten it a year from now.

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