SIFF 2022: Voice of Silence (소리도 없이)

Directed by: Hong Eui-jeong
Distributed by: Acemaker Movieworks

Written by Taylor Baker

60/100

Hong Eui-jeong’s “Voice of Silence” is a screwball tragedy, that balances a duo of cleaners tending to murders for local gansters in a warehouse while keeping a kidnapped 11-year-old girl busy as they dispose of the bodies. In the opening minutes of “Voice of Silence” Eui-jeong’s directorial debut we’re introduced to Tae-in played by Yoo Ah-in (the central performer of Lee Chang Dong’s 2018 adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story ‘Barn Burning’ entitled, “Burning”) and his partner in crime Chang-bok played by You Chea-myung; they have a beaten and bloodied man hung up in an indiscriminate factory and are rolling out and cutting visqueen underneath the dangling soon to be corpse for easy cleanup. Tae-in is an envious young man, who longs for extravagance and wealth, at one point getting in his boss’s car and lighting up a mostly smoked cigarette in a play at tasting and inhaling the high life, before he unceremoniously coughs disgusted by its flavor and casts it to the pavement. After their boss finishes beating and killing the man they’d strung up, Tae-in is tasked with wrapping the rope he’d been hanging from around the corpse’s body and in doing so accidentally splatters his boss’s gleaming black shoes. In that moment Eui-jeong lets us ruminate on the uncertainty of the consequences of Tae-in’s accident and instead of clearly delineating to either a joke or drama, she opts instead for character development and sincerity. It’s this juggling of the consequences of events as they unfold that makes the “Voice of Silence” an engaging if faulty watch. For every thoughtful saddening event, there is likewise a bungling that not only undermines the build-up, but lessens the overall sense of craftsmanship for what is an otherwise thoroughly wrought film both on-page and screen.

After handling their job burying the dead body for their boss, they’re asked to collect and watch someone. That someone turns out to be Cho-hee (Moon Seung-ah), the only problem is that they were supposed to kidnap Cho-hee’s brother. As her father doesn’t value his daughter as much as his male heir, so he may be unwilling to pay the ransom. These twists on what are otherwise dark circumstances keep “Voice of Silence” balanced on the edge of the genres it’s playing in and allow moments like hands rising from the ground, death from a blow to the head, and children enslaved and used as blood banks to not only achieve moments of catharsis by the end but mostly eschew a classical narratives ending for one of multiple consequences. Certain and uncertain.

“Voice of Silence” Trailer

“Voice of Silence” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival. You can stream “Voice of Silence” on Rakuten Viki.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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