The Silence of the Sea

Synopsis: In a small town in the West of France, during the German Occupation, a room is requisitioned by a Wehrmacht captain, Werner von Ebrennac. The house where he now stays is inhabited by young Jeanne, who makes a living by giving piano lessons, and by her grandfather. Quite upset, the two "hosts" decide to resist the occupier by never speaking a word to him. Now Werner is a lover of France and its culture, and he tries to persuade them that a rapprochement between Germany and France would be beneficial for the two nations. Quite unexpectedly Jeanne, little by little, falls in love with Werner. At the same time, the francophile officer loses his illusions, realizing at last that what Nazi Germany actually wants is to thrall France and to stifle its culture...
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
93 min

Vercors' famous novel The Silence of the Sea In memory of the murdered poet, Saint-Pol-Roux This film does not claim to provide a solution to the relations... ...between France and Germany, which will remain problematic... ...while the barbaric Nazi crimes... ...carried out with the collusion of the German people stay in our minds He had left like that He submitted to life like all the others Like the whole wretched nation And I tried to remember everything that had happened in these six months The evenings, his words... ...the rebellion that even this man did not have the courage to continue... ...against his master's orders His arrival was preceded by a great deal of military preparation Later the gangling soldier came back accompanied by another They spoke to me in what they thought was French I didn't understand a word But I showed them the unoccupied rooms They seemed satisfied The next morning... army car made its way into the garden Two soldiers extricated two boxes The car left and a few hours later I heard horses Three men on horseback appeared They had pushed my workbench clamp between stones in the wall... ...attached a rope to it and the horses to the rope by the barn, my workshop Nothing happened for the next two days I didn't see anyone The men left early with their horses They returned with them in the evening, sleeping on the straw they had put down Then on the morning of the third day, the army car returned A pair of sheets, please My niece had just brought me my coffee as she did every evening Coffee helps me to sleep I was sitting at the end of the room, more or less in the dark If you please My name is Werner von Ebrennac I'm very sorry, I... It was necessary, of course. I would have avoided it, if I'd been able My orderly will do everything he can not to disrupt you I have a deep respect for people who love their country I could go to my room now, but I don't know the way My niece opened the door leading onto the stairs and started to climb... ...without looking at the officer as if she was alone The officer followed her I noticed that he had a limp My niece came back down Thank God, he seems quite decent Next morning the officer came down as we were breakfasting in the kitchen A different staircase leads down to it I don't know if he'd heard us or if he just happened to come this way He said I had a very good night I hope yours was as good Your old mayor said I'd be staying at the Chteau But I'll thank my men for getting it wrong. It's much more beautiful here He returned at the same time as before. We were having coffee He knocked but didn't wait for my niece and opened the door himself I fear I'm disturbing you If you prefer, I'll come in via the kitchen? Then you can lock this door I bid you good night We never locked the door I'm not sure this was for a very clear or blameless reason My niece and I had silently agreed not to change our lives at all... ...not even the slightest detail As if the officer didn't exist. As if he were a ghost But in my heart there may have been another reason It pains me to offend anyone, even if he is my enemy For a long time, more than a month, the same scenario was played out The officer would knock and enter He would say something about the weather, the temperature or some such subject of little importance Their common trait - none of them required a response He always lingered at the hearth. He looked around him A faint smile betrayed the pleasure he took in this exercise Always the same exercise, always the same pleasure His eyes rested on my niece's bowed profile... ...which was always severe and impassive When he finally took his eyes off her... ...I saw in them a kind of smiling approval I bid you good night Things suddenly changed one evening A light snow was falling, mixed with rain, it would both freeze and drench you I put the thickest logs on the fire that had been set aside for such days I imagined the officer outside covered in a sprinkling of snow on his return But he didn't return It was long past his usual time... ...and to my annoyance I found myself thinking about him My niece was knitting slowly and with great concentration Finally we heard footsteps... ...but they came from inside the house From the uneven sound I could tell it was the officer He'd come in by the other door and was now leaving his room He no doubt hadn't wanted to appear inglorious in his drenched uniform He had first changed The footsteps, one loud, one quiet, came down the stairs The door opened and the officer appeared He was in mufti Excuse me, I'm not very warm. I got drenched and my room is very cold I'll warm myself by your fire for a moment That's good This is nothing. The French winter is mild It's hard where I'm from, very hard We have fir trees, the forests are tightly packed The snow sits heavy on them The trees here are delicate the snow covers them like lace Germany is like a powerful thickset bull... ...which needs all its strength to stay alive Here, it's all intellect, thought, subtle and poetic I've always loved France. Always My childhood thoughts in the last war mean nothing But I've always loved it since But it was from a distance. Like the "Faraway Princess" Because of my father Because of my father He was very patriotic The defeat was very painful for him But he loved France He liked Briand. He believed in the Weimar Republic and in Briand He was very enthusiastic He would say, "He'll unite us like man and wife" He thought the sun would finally rise over Europe But Briand was defeated My father saw that France was still run by your cruel upper classes Men like de Wendels, Henri Bordeaux and the old Marshal He said to me, never go to France... ...unless it is in a soldier's garb I made him that promise because he was dying When war broke out, I knew all of Europe, except France I'm a musician. I'm not a performer, I compose music It's my whole life So it's strange for me to see myself as a fighting man But I don't ... I don't regret this war No, I think some great good will come of it Forgive me if I have offended you but I sincerely believe what I said Out of love for France Great things will come of it for both Germany and France I think as my father did that the sun will shine again on Europe I bid you good night Perhaps it's inhumane to refuse to speak to him I almost felt myself blush From that day on this was the pattern his visits took We rarely saw him in his uniform... ...he changed first, then knocked at our door Whether to spare us the enemy uniform... make us forget or to get to know the man? Both, no doubt He knocked and entered, not waiting for the reply he knew we wouldn't give He did it in the most natural way and warmed himself This was always his excuse, but neither he nor we believed it... ...and he did not try to disguise its conventionality He didn't come every single evening but I don't remember one... ...when he did not talk He leaned over the fire, and while he warmed himself... ...his deep voice would gently rise... ...and he would talk about the things close to his heart... ...his country, music, France It was always a monologue... he never tried to prise from us a response, an agreement... ...or even a look He wouldn't speak for long, never longer than on the first evening He would say a few sentences, sometimes broken by silence... ...sometimes linked up with the monotonous continuity of a prayer He would sometimes stand motionless, a caryatid against the chimney breast... ...or without breaking off, go up to an object or a picture Then he would fall silent, bow and bid us goodnight Once, in the early days of his visits, he said... How is this different from a fire at home? The wood, the hearth, the flame are the same, but the light is different This one depends on the objects it lights, the people in this room Why do I like this room so much? It's not so beautiful. Oh, I'm sorry, I mean... It's not a museum piece. Your furniture, not beautiful artefacts... No, but this room has a soul The whole house has a soul Balzac, Baudelaire, Corneille, Descartes, Fnelon, Gautier, Hugo What a line-up! And I've only got to 'H' Not as far as Molire, Racine, Rabelais. Pascal, Stendhal, Voltaire, Montaigne... ...and all the others With the English, you immediately think of Shakespeare With the Italians, Dante With Spain, Cervantes... ...and with us, immediately Goethe Then you have to stop and think... ...but if someone says France, who immediately springs to mind? Molire? Racine? Hugo? Voltaire? Rabelais? Or who of the others? They're like a crowd at a theatre entrance. You don't know who to let in first But in terms of music, you think of us Bach, Hndel, Beethoven, Wagner, Mozart Which name do you put first? And we are at war with each other! But it is the last. We won't fight any more, we will marry Yes It will be the most beautiful wedding in the world I bid you good night My dear, I'm going back to warm up But he never mentioned this meeting When we entered Saintes, I was happy that we got a good reception I was very happy. I thought it would be easy Then I saw that it was not that at all, it was cowardice I felt contempt for them and I feared for France I thought, "Has it really come to this?" No, I've since seen it's not so... ...and now I'm happy to see its stern expression I'm happy to have found here a dignified old man... ...and a silent young lady We have to overcome this silence, we have to overcome France's silence I'm glad it's so Then one evening... Yes, it's better like this, much better. It makes for a better union A union in which each side grows in greatness There's a lovely fairytale that I've read, that you've read, that everyone has read I don't know if the title is the same We call it 'Das Tier und die Schne'... 'Beauty and the Beast' Poor Beauty. She is at the mercy of the Beast, his powerless prisoner She is subjected to his impassive and heavy presence all day long Beauty is proud, dignified, she has become hard But the Beast is better than it seems It doesn't have the finest manners It is gauche, brutal It seems uncouth next to the refined Beauty But it has a heart. Yes, a soul which aspires to greater things If Beauty wanted Beauty takes a long time to do so But gradually she discovers a light in her hated captor's eyes... ...a light where entreaty and love are discernible She becomes less aware of its heavy paw, her prison chains She stops hating it. Its constancy touches her and she gives it her hand The Beast is immediately transformed The spell that had trapped him in this barbaric pelt is broken He is a handsome knight with a pure heart, sensitive and cultured... ...and every kiss from Beauty adorns him with ever more glorious qualities Their union leads to their sublime happiness Their children who combine their parents' talents... ...are the most beautiful on earth Don't you like this fairytale? I've always loved it I'm always reading it It used to make me cry I especially like the Beast because I understood his suffering It still moves me today when I talk about it I bid you good night One evening when I went up to my room to get some tobacco... ...I heard the strains of the harmonium The Eighth Prelude and Fugue my niece had been practising before the disaster The score stayed open at that page... ...but until then my niece had not practised again I was pleased and surprised she had gone back to it What emotional need could have suddenly made her take it up again? No, she had not left her chair or her work There's nothing greater Great is not quite the right word Beyond man, beyond his flesh It makes us realise... no... guess... no... ...sense what nature is... ...divine nature, divested of the human mind Yes, it's inhuman music Bach. He could only be German Our land has this inhuman characteristic By 'inhuman' I mean it's not on the same scale as men I love this music, I admire it It overwhelms me It is like God's presence in me But it's not my music I want to compose music on a human scale It's a way of arriving at the truth. My way I don't want another, I can't follow any other I know that now. I know it for sure Since when? Since I've been here Now I need France, but I ask a lot of her. I ask her to welcome me It doesn't mean anything to be here as a foreigner, a traveller, a conqueror She doesn't give anything because you can't take anything from her Her wealth, her great wealth will not be conquered You have to drink her milk She has to offer you her milk like a mother I know that depends on us but it depends on her, too She has to be willing to understand our thirst... ...and to quench it She has to be ready to join with us I need to live here for a long time, in a house like this Like the son of a village, a village like this I need... Obstacles have to be overcome Sincerity can always overcome obstacles I bid you good night I don't remember all that was said over a hundred winter evenings But it was always the same Always his rapture about his discovery of France The love he had felt from afar before coming here The love which grew each day since he had the good fortune to live here And I have to say I admired him He never got discouraged, never tried to break our intractable silence... any verbal outbursts On the contrary, when he sometimes let the silence take over the room... ...and seep into its corners like a heavy unbreathable gas... ...of the three of us, he seemed to be most at ease He looked approvingly at my niece... ...his expression both smiling and solemn... it had been from the first day And I felt my niece's soul struggle in her self-imposed prison I saw it in the little signs, like the slight trembling of her fingers When Werner von Ebrennac finally gently and smoothly broke this silence... ...with his deep voice I felt able to breathe more easily I was born in my house in the forest. I went to the village school I didn't leave it until I went to Munich for my exams and to Salzburg for the music I've always lived there. I didn't like the cities I've been to London, Vienna, Rome, Warsaw... ...and of course to German cities I wouldn't like to live there I did like Prague. It has a soul like no other And Nuremberg above all else It's the city that fills a German's heart... ...because you find ghosts which are close to your heart... ...every stone imbued with the memory of those who made Germany noble I imagine the French must feel the same at Chartres They must also feel the presence of their ancestors... ...their graciousness of spirit, the splendour of their faith, their kindness Fate took me to Chartres Attention! Fire! It's so. So many things are going on in a German's head Even in the best German, and he'd be glad to be cured of them In the country house near us lives a young woman She is very beautiful and very sweet My father would have been happy if I had married her We were practically engaged when he died... ...and we went for long walks on our own One day we were in the forest and... I'm so happy, Werner - All God's creations are so wonderful. - Yes, I'm happy too Wretched creature! It stung me Look, I've caught it, Werner Now I'm going to punish it I'll tear off its legs, one by one Fortunately she had a lot of other suitors I have no regrets But I'm terrified of German girls now Our politicians are like that too I never wanted anything to do with them Even though my friends wrote saying, "Come and join us" No I always preferred to stay at home It wasn't the best thing for the success of my music, but too bad Success counts for little compared to a clear conscience I know that my friends and the Fhrer have the greatest and most noble ideas But I also know that they would tear off mosquitoes' legs, one by one That always happens to Germans when they are lonely It always comes back Who is lonelier than the men in the Party when they rule? Fortunately they're not alone now. They are in France France will cure them And they know it They know France will teach them to be truly great and pure-hearted But for that, they need love A shared love I bid you good night The long spring days arrived The officer now returned with the last of the sun's rays The Fhrer announces far-reaching historic decisions will be made One evening he came down, a book closed over his finger He wore the suppressed half smile of one who knows... ...he is about to make others happy... He said I'm sorry to disturb you so early but I have this for you It's from 'Macbeth' Such greatness It's at the end Macbeth's power is slipping away and with it the loyalty of those... ...who finally realise the depths of his ambition The noblemen who defend Scotland's honour waiting for his imminent downfall One of them describes the dramatic symptoms of this downfall Angus: now does he feel his secret murders sticking on his hands He is upbraided by a revolt each minute for his breach of faith Those he commands move only in command Nothing in love Now does he feel his title hang loose about him... a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief That's what must give your president some sleepless nights I pity this man, despite the contempt he inspires in me and in you Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love A leader who does not have the love of his people is a miserable puppet But can we hope for anything else? Who but a dreary climber would have taken on this role? There needed to be someone who would sell his country... ...because today France cannot willingly fall into our open arms... ...without losing her dignity in her own eyes Often the most sordid go-between is responsible for the happiest union The go-between is no less contemptible for it, nor the union less happy The Paris train I must inform my hosts I shall be away for two weeks I'm delighted about going to Paris I have my leave and I'm going to spend it in Paris, for the first time It's a big day for me The biggest, while I wait for another which I hope for with all my soul It will be an even bigger day I can wait. For years, if need be My heart is very patient In Paris I'll see my friends Many are party to the negotiations being conducted with your politicians... preparation for the wonderful union of our two nations In a way I'll witness this marriage I want to tell you that I'm happy for France whose wounds will quickly heal But I'm even happier for Germany and for myself No one will ever have benefited more from a good deed than Germany will... restoring France's greatness and freedom I bid you good night The French army threatened to invade England The Third Coalition took up arms on the continent Napoleon entered Vienna, he triumphed at Austerlitz In less than 100 days the Coalition was dissolved I was sent here by God, King of Heaven, to drive you out of France We didn't see him when he returned We knew he was there, there are many signs of a guest in the house... ...even if he remains invisible But for a number of days, more than a week, we didn't see him Should I admit to it? This absence troubled me I thought about him I think I felt regret and concern Neither my niece nor I spoke of it But when in the evening, we heard his uneven tread... ...I saw from the way she suddenly and stubbornly applied herself to her work... ...and from the faint lines on her face... her an expression that was both determined and expectant... ...that her thoughts were similar to mine I had to go to the German headquarters to make some declaration about tyres Come in For a free Europe What do you want? Lieutenant - Make five copies and send them one. - Yes, Lieutenant I didn't say anything about it to my niece, but women have a feline intuition All evening she kept looking up from her work... ...and looking at me trying to discern something in my face... ...which I forced into an expressionless blank by diligently drawing on my pipe She finally dropped her hands as if she was tired... ...and folding the material asked for my permission to go to bed early She kissed me and I think I saw in her beautiful grey eyes... ...a reproach and a heavy sadness Once she had left I felt an absurd anger rise in me Anger at being absurd and having an absurd niece What was this stupidity? I couldn't answer that If it was stupidity it seemed to be deeply ingrained Three days later, just as we were finishing our coffee... ...we heard the familiar footsteps with their irregular tread... ...coming in our direction I suddenly remembered that winter evening when we had first heard his footsteps... ...six months earlier I thought, it's raining today too My niece had put a square of printed silk around her shoulders I was warming my hands on the bowl of my pipe and it was summer! I thought I could see a man behind the door... ...his forefinger raised, ready to knock... ...and delaying the moment... ...for by the very act of knocking, he would set in motion the future Finally he knocked Not with the lightness of one hesitating nor the brusqueness of shyness overcome They were three full and long knocks Calm, assured knocks of a decision on which there was no going back I was expecting to see the door open immediately as usual But it remained shut and I was overcome by an uncontrollable uneasiness He's going to leave What should I do to behave with dignity on this evening? Come in, sir I learned then that the hands, if you observe them well... ...can be as expressive as the face Even better than the face... they more easily escape the control of the will I have something serious to tell you Everything I have said these past six months Everything the walls of this room have heard... have to... have to forget Such a light! I saw these victorious men I spoke to them They laughed at me I had been so happy to go there Treblinka? - Yes, what about it? - What's the significance of Treblinka? - Nothing, nothing now. - Why "not any more"? Let's not talk about that. It's not for the faint-hearted The mass executions take place in the gas chambers constructed here... ...with carbon monoxide and in the cremation ovens There is currently a throughput of 500 people a day... ...but improvements are underway... that within two months... ...this figure can be increased to 2, 000 people a day Treblinka, 21 March, 1941 The start of spring! The start of spring! So these gas chambers are currently in use No, Treblinka has already served its purpose. It's done with There's no one left to execute Chemical examination post Medical centre I'm surprised by your opinion on this Haven't you realised that we're duping them? Do you think we're foolish enough to let France rise up again? We're not musicians Politics isn't the stuff of fantasy. Why do you think we went to war? - For the sake of their old Marshal? - We're not mad We have the opportunity to destroy France and that's what we will do Not just its power, but its spirit as well That's where the greatest danger lies. That's our duty Make no mistake, we'll do it with smiles and with care... ...but we'll make France crawl on its belly You've been too influenced by France in your youth, that's the danger... ...but we'll cure Europe of this disease, we'll root out this poison We'll flatter the writers of course... ...but we've already taken the necessary measures In Belgium and Holland and in every country we occupy French books will be allowed except technical publications There will be no literary works. None! We'll rip the venom from the beast Getting frightened Now they fear for their pockets, their stomachs, their industry and trade That's all they're worried about There are exceptions, of course, but we'll flatter them to death - Nothing could be easier. - Just for a plate of lentils Do you realise what you're doing? - Do you realise? - Do you think we'll falter? We're made of stronger stuff You will seal France's downfall forever It's a matter of life and death Violence can conquer but it cannot rule We know that. It takes more than an army to rule Not at the price of the spirit Not at that price The spirit? It has already seen a lot The spirit is immortal. We're building a thousand year Reich First we have to destroy That's our right and our duty On September 19, 1941 another German soldier was murdered To atone for this cowardly crime the following were shot Wait a moment A box of matches, please There is no hope No hope Nothing No one Not just the modern authors. Not just Pguy, Proust, Bergson But all the others, all of these. All of them They will extinguish the light Completely That light will never shine again on Europe One of these men was my friend He was like a brother We studied together. We shared a room in Stuttgart We spent three months together in Nuremberg I played him my music He read me his poems He was sensitive and romantic But he left me He went to read his poems in Mnchen, in Munich To new friends He was always writing asking me to join him It was he I saw in Paris with his friends I saw what they had done to him He was the angriest of them all He combined anger and laughter He shouted "It's venomous, we have to extract the venom from the beast" I said, "Do you realise what you're doing?" I looked at him, I looked into his bright eyes He meant what he said, that's the worst part They will do what they say... ...methodically and resolutely I know these stubborn devils His lips opened and I thought he was going to launch into some exhortation I thought he was going to encourage us to rebel But no word passed his lips They said to me, "It's our right and our duty" "Our duty" Lucky the man who so easily finds the path to his duty At the crossroads, you're told, take that route This route does not take you towards the shining heights... descends into a gloomy valley... ...deep into the dark, dank forest Oh God, show me where my duty lies Can duty ever mean accepting the crime? I've exercised my rights. I've asked to join a fighting division They've finally agreed to it I'm authorised to leave tomorrow and return to battle Towards Hell I bid you good night Goodbye Goodbye You'd have to have been waiting to have heard this word But finally I heard it. Von Ebrennac heard it, too Take my things downstairs It is a fine thing when a soldier disobeys criminal orders All set, Lieutenant Yes, I'm coming My niece had made me breakfast as usual She served me in silence We drank our coffee in silence Outside a pale sun was shining through the mist It felt very cold to me It felt very cold to me October 1941 The publication of this book was funded by a patriot The printing was completed under Nazi Occupation on 20 February 1942

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    "The Silence of the Sea" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 10 May 2021. <>.

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