On a barren island, a mother and son confront years of silence and misunderstandings in writer-director Hanna Slak’s formidable fourth feature film starring Maren Eggert, scored by Amélie Legrand, and shot by Claire Mathon.
Not A Word
A shooting star in her field, conductor Nina Palcek (Maren Eggert) is diligently preparing for a concert of Mahler’s 5th Symphony at the Berlin Philharmonic. With the highly anticipated performance on the horizon, rehearsal is abruptly interrupted by news that her teenage son, Lars (Jona Levin Nicolai), has been injured at school — perhaps by his own hand.
Prioritizing her child over her professional success, she whisks Lars away to a remote island on which the family used to summer. As it is winter, though, the nostalgic refuge is near-abandoned and inhospitable. With the onset of a storm, the pair are cut off from the mainland and confined to a sombre cliffside house where Nina begins to find her child’s behaviour increasingly disturbing. Accrued silence turns to misunderstanding and jagged paranoia as Nina begins suspecting her quick-to-anger child of involvement in the recent death of a schoolmate. Approaching a point of no return, the pair edge towards a gripping climax, somehow drawing Nina closer to her son and to Mahler’s music.
In this, her fourth fiction feature, Slovenian writer-director Hanna Slak’s sonic and sophisticated storytelling pulsates to an unforgettable crescendo. Flanked by a haunting score by Amélie Legrand (Amil Shivji’s TIFF ’21 film, Tug of War), the singular imagery of cinematographer Claire Mathon (Céline Sciamma’s 2019 Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Mati Diop’s 2019 Atlantics, Pablo Larraín’s 2021 Spencer, and Alice Diop’s 2022 Saint Omer, all of which played the Festival), and a career-defining performance by Eggert, this is a formidable coup.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival