Also know as Le silence de la mer”, in 1941, in a small town in Nazi occupied France, a Nazi office commandeers lodging with an elderly man and his niece. They don’t protest butthey totally ignore the German. As time goes by the German officer, Werner von Ebrennac, shares his love of music, the arts and France.
As time goes on he talks of his dream of the marriage of Germany and France, and when he says so he looks at the niece. Although the uncle and niece do not say anything, there is a sense that he is winning them over. The office tells of the time his almost fiance pulled the wings off an insect that bit her. He comments on how most Germans are like that. He sees the flaws with his people, but he also thinks that things will work out for the better.
The officer stopped appearing in uniform, and always had his one way chats. He talks about Marshall Petain; how he sold out his country, comparing him to McBeth. He then informs his “hosts” that he will be gone to Paris for two weeks. He has fallen for the niece, and although he never says it directly, it is easy to see. He says he is grateful that Germany has restored France’s greatness.
The officer visits Paris and sees the Arch of Triumph, a statue of Joan of Arc, and Notre Dame. He returned to the uncle and niece, but for a week didn’t come down to see them. One night he knocked, and for the first time the uncle told him to come in. He told them of his trip to Paris, and of learning about the death camps from his friends. he learned there was not to be a marriage of Germany and France, but a domination. His friends tell him they must never allow France to rise again. “Haven’t you realized yet that we are tricking them?” “Do you think we’re so stupid as to allow France ever to rise again?” “We are no buffoons. Politics is not some romantic dream.” “Why do you think we waged war? To please your old marshall? We aren’t lunatics, nor are we fools.” “We have the opportunity to destroy France and we will do so. Not only it’s might but also its spirit. That is where the biggest danger lies. That’s our mission. Don’t kid yourself my friend. We will be smiling. We will proceed with mercy. But we will turn France in to a cowering dog.” “You’re blinded by your love of France. That’s dangerous. We will cure Europe of this pestilence. We will utterly destroy this poison.”
The officer tells them he has requested a transfer to the front lines. The officer and the niece look at each other, and he says “Farewell”. For the first time the niece speaks to him and says softly: “Farewell.”
The movie was based on a true story and was filmed in the same house that the events took place. It was Melville’s first full length film, and it was very good. This movie showed, like Army of Shadows, that not all French surrendered to the Germans. Unlike Army of Shadows, in this movie the resistance was passive. They didn’t actively fight the Germans, but they did nothing to help them either. This was a movie that the French could embrace as they tried to heal as a country.