Jean-Pierre Melville

Le silence de la mer

Le silence de la mer

Jean-Pierre Melville began his superb feature filmmaking career with this powerful adaptation of an influential underground novel written during the Nazi occupation of France. A cultured, naively idealistic German officer is billeted in the home of a middle-aged man and his grown niece; their response to his presence—their only form of resistance—is complete silence. Constructed with elegant minimalism and shot, by the legendary Henri Decaë, with hushed eloquence, Le silence de la mer points the way toward Melville’s later films about resistance and the occupation (Léon Morin, Priest; Army of Shadows) yet remains a singularly eerie masterwork in its own right.

Film Info

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • The short 24 Hours in the Life of a Clown (1946), director Jean-Pierre Melville’s first film
  • New interview with film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
  • Code Name Melville (2008), a seventy-six-minute documentary on Melville’s time in the French Resistance and his films about it
  • Melville Steps Out of the Shadows (2010), a forty-two-minute documentary about Le silence de la mer
  • Interview with Melville from 1959
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a selection from Rui Nogueira’s 1971 book Melville on Melville

Cover based on an original poster by Raymond Gid

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • The short 24 Hours in the Life of a Clown (1946), director Jean-Pierre Melville’s first film
  • New interview with film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
  • Code Name Melville (2008), a seventy-six-minute documentary on Melville’s time in the French Resistance and his films about it
  • Melville Steps Out of the Shadows (2010), a forty-two-minute documentary about Le silence de la mer
  • Interview with Melville from 1959
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a selection from Rui Nogueira’s 1971 book Melville on Melville

Cover based on an original poster by Raymond Gid

Le silence de la mer
Cast
Howard Vernon
Werner von Ebrennac
Nicole Stéphane
The niece
Jean-Marie Robain
The uncle
Ami Aaroe
The fiancée
Georges Patrix
The officer’s servant
Denis Sadier
The friend
Rudelle
The Germans
Max Fromm
Claude Vernier
Max Hermann
Fritz Schmiedel
Credits
Director
Jean-Pierre Melville
From the novel by
Vercors
Adapted by
Jean-Pierre Melville
Director of photography
Henri Decaë
Music
Edgar Bischoff
Production director
Edmond Vaxelaire
Executive producer
Marcel Cartier

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Le silence de la mer: Stranger in the House
Le silence de la mer: Stranger in the House

In his first feature, Jean-Pierre Melville found subtly radical ways to adapt Vercors's underground French novel about quiet resistance against the German occupation.

By Geoffrey O'Brien

On Film / Essays — May 1, 2015
Ginette Vincendeau on Le silence de la mer
Ginette Vincendeau on Le silence de la mer

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le silence de la mer is undoubtedly one of the most assured film debuts of all time; an adaptation of an underground novel by Jean Bruller, written (under the pseudonym Vercors) during the Nazi occupation of France, the film …

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Apr 28, 2015

Explore

Jean-Pierre Melville

Director

Though remembered now primarily for his intense, spare 1960s gangster films, French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville had a startlingly varied career, encompassing wartime dramas, psychosexual character studies, and a collaboration with Jean Cocteau. Jean-Pierre Grumbach (he would eventually change his name to Melville to honor the American author of Moby Dick) fought during World War II, first in the French army and then in the Resistance; those experiences would often inspire his work to come. After the war ended, he pursued his love of film with dogged obsession. Though a lover of classical studio directors (William Wyler and John Huston among them), Melville worked mostly independently, even building his own studio. It was this fierce do-it-yourself attitude, and such startling, uncompromising films as Les enfants terribles and Bob le flambeur, that appealed to the filmmakers of the French New Wave, who adopted Melville as a godfather of sorts (Godard even famously gave him a cameo in Breathless). During the New Wave, however, Melville went his own way, making highly idiosyncratic crime films—classically mounted if daringly existential—that were beholden to no trend, including Le doulos, Le deuxième soufflé, and Le samouraï. His most personal movie was Army of Shadows, which, though misunderstood upon its initial French release in 1969, is now widely considered a masterpiece. Melville died of a heart attack in 1973 at the age of fifty-five.