Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Dutch movie "A Question of Silence" is realistic. It feels like here. I'm sure there are many differences between Netherlands and US culture, but this movie feels like the same office buildings, streets, chairs, rush, stores--all that.

The one unrealistic thing comes at the start of the movie and the director makes it work, which is good, since it's what the movie is about.

Three women are shopping at their lunch in a so-so clothes store in a so-so tiny mall. They don't know each other. They have each had a difficult morning in terms of respect. The office worker woman, the highest of the three in society, was at a meeting where she said an idea and no one heard it or responded. Then two minutes later a guy said that idea and every one (every guy) said it was a great idea.

The hard working heart of gold waitress at a diner had heard the guy's, the regulars talking about current events and had said her opinion. They did a group sneer saying she was too dumb to know. These guys themselves were not covered with marks of genius. She was really hurt because she knew, she saw them every day. Hurt and angry.

The housewife, Christine, was snarled at by her husband who had no idea how to talk to her. She didn't speak. She doesn't speak for the whole movie. Profound depression, I would say. The movie doesn't say.

So these three women, who didn't know each other, because they wouldn't, are in the small clothes store, the only customers, and the man who manages it who is the only other person there insults one of them.

They make the store furniture into weapons and kill him. They beat him to death with stainless steel store stuff. This is believible inside the movie. It is not vividlly portrayed, thank God.

The public defender, lawyer who is a woman, gets a call about them and we have the four women the movie is about.

Why did they do it, everyone wonders, or seems to wonder. We saw the bad mornings at the beginning of the movie, the women never talk about them, and Karen, the housewife, never talks.

The public defender, very likable smart strong professional woman, talks to them all (or tries to in the case of Christine) and doesn't get much of anywhere.

Her husband, the public defender's husband, a good guy, manages to keep saying the wrong thing. God knows what the right thing to say would be but he's got a gift for saying the wrong thing.

When the lawyer and the office worker of ignored idea meet it's intense. They are the two women of the four most like each other.

The office worker stands in front of the lawyer and close to her and runs her hands around the lawyers body, starting at the top of her head from about three inches away, slowly. Intense.

This makes so much sense to me and I don't know why. Some kind of who are you thing. It feels like it takes a very long time.

When I saw it happen, I felt like there are many ways we could be with each other that we've missed because of not having enough time, being under too much pressure, no having enough privacy. Whatever this outline-the-aura long gesture was, if the lawyer's husband had been around he would have stopped it with a snort.

And it doesn't lead to anything but thoughts of another world inside a world very much like this one.

The lawyer is under a lot of pressure. The case is getting a lot of press. Everyone she knows tells her what to think about it. Two of her clients aren't helpful in talking to her, and one of them doesn't talk to her or anyone. Her husband, a simple, unlikable guy, can't remember when last she spoke.

The case does not end in the movie. The movie ends while the case is going on and somebody says something to the public defender on the courthouse steps, and she laughs.

That laugh is something else. Not summarizable and very real, sort of like the no-touch touch of the lawyer and her conventionally smartest client.

In the comic strip "Sylvia" by Nicole Hollander, Harry the bartender one time says to Sylvia, "You're always complaining about men. Have you ever thought about what the world would be without me?"

Sylvia says, "Yes, lots of fat, happy women and no crime."

There's something about thinking about that line in the context of this movie because the waitress, that's how she presents herself, as an overweight happy jolly laughing woman. Doesn't like being sneered at though.

We miss the things people don't say because they're sneered at. We miss the gesture we don't think of making because we don't have enough time with each other. There's a lot missing and in its straightforward and strange way this movie puts some of it back.