Vancouver International Film Festival
“The Rest is Silence” played as part of the Cinema of our Time Series at the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival.
The last few years have seen a sort of Romanian film renaissance. Films like “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” have stirred up interest in the emerging Romanian cinema. So, naturally, I was intrigued by the new comedy “The Rest is Silence” from Romanian director and writer Nae Caranfil.
The film is based on the true story of the making of “Independenta Romaniei”, a film made in 1911 by young movie director Grigore Brezianu, who was convinced that this thing called “cinema” would be big someday. At the time, the film was the longest movie ever made, clocking in at two hours. Real clips from the original movie are peppered in through “The Rest is Silence”.
The young director in Bucharest convinces a wealthy theatre owner to finance his planned epic about the 1877 Independence War, the Romanian struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire.
A standout performance is given by Ovidiu Niculescu as theatre owner Leon, hitting all the right comedic points and actually getting the audience to sympathize what is on first glance a brutal, ridiculous character.
The cinematography and details of the era such as sets and costumes are strikingly beautiful. The visuals certainly do away with the misconception that only American or perhaps British cinema can have such lush, beautiful design. An especially memorable scene has the young director trying to desperately work with three unruly retired army generals as they try to coral dozens of actors for a complicated battle scene.
After a strong start and enveloping cinematography, the film just seems to fall apart thematically, especially in its third act. It’s not a horrible story, exactly, but it simply doesn’t make much sense for it to take such a turn. It suddenly goes from a whimsical comedy to melodrama in one or two scenes, with no segue or explanation. This leaves the viewer more confused then entertained or thoughtful after the last reel of “The Rest is Silence” plays.
As a comedy, the film occasionally entertains. As an example of the growing stature of Romanian cinema, with its high production values, “The Rest is Silence” mostly succeeds. Yet as a cohesive story that represents the events it depicts clearly, the film unfortunately falters.