There’s a scene in the opening moments of the film where the main character is approached by a woman at one of his public readings. She asks him why his character murders people and what are his true motives behind these murders. To this, he simply replies: “because he can.” This scene pretty much sums up the movie for you. Almost nothing in the film is driven by solid reasoning but at the same time, there’s a lot to take in.
Two major plots are imbued in Netflix’s new Spanish thriller: One of them focuses on the main character, who is a writer recreating all the killings that he has described in his work; the other narrative seemingly serves as an allegory to the current state of local politics with its portrayal of drugs and corruption that ensues in the backdrop of the writer’s story. These two plots, when intertwined with one another, create a fairly compelling hour and a half.
But one cannot help but notice how almost all of it comes off as nothing but a relentless cocktail of several noir cliches. Even the conviction with which ‘The Silence of the Marsh’ walks you through its entire storyline is quite questionable as its pace is all over the place and barely manages to scratch the surface of the intricacies that you would expect from it. In the end, it only leaves you with a bittersweet feeling, with its shallow social criticism being one of its few appreciable aspects.
The Silence of the Marsh Plot Summary
Based on a novel written by Juanjo Braulio, the film begins with the first-person narration of Q, the main character who is a renowned crime writer. He himself reveals that none of his books are a work of fiction and are based on the brutal crimes that he has committed himself. When he starts writing a whole new novel, he abducts a professor of Economics, who was previously accused of being involved in several schemes of corruption while working as an advisor for the Valencian regional government. However, this abduction does not really go as planned and before Q can react to the given situation, it already starts to slip right out of his hand. In the meantime, a second layer of the film’s plot reveals all the panic that ensues in the real world after the kidnapping of the professor.
The Silence of the Marsh Review
The structure of the storyline of ‘The Silence of the Marsh’ works both in its favor and against it. How it manages to meld reality using its gritty murderous plot evokes a sense of intrigue in a viewer. Throughout its runtime, you can’t help but wonder how the personal narrative of the main character will eventually have some connective threads with the parallel societal rendering that unravels in the background. However, on the downside, it tries to deal with way too many subplots in its narrow runtime. Although its undercurrent of references and allegories is quite appreciable, they just seem to be all over the place, making its storyline quite convoluted; especially towards the end.
What’s commendable is that despite all of its political commentary, the film never really takes a biased stand on either side of the coin that it depicts. Moreover, as a viewer, you also find yourself connecting well with the main protagonist, Q, despite his horrendous acts of violence. The film recounts the inner workings of his mind almost on a very personal level and the fact that the narrative of the film keeps shifting back to a first-person POV during his scenes, makes you feel quite congenial towards him. There are times when you can’t help but wonder if he is an actual person who is simply recalling his own intimate memoirs. And it’s not until the climactic moments that you realize why it devices such a unique format of narration. Not to mention, Pedro Alonso’s great performance adds more heft to this convincing experience.
Overall, ‘The Silence of the Marsh’ is unique in a sense that it manages to give you a very refreshing perspective at the genre’s tropes by only making some minor tweaks in its narrative style. Even its involvement of politics and culture will certainly be more appealing to the local audience as it alludes to certain realities of the society. However, because of its linear style and forced climax, it simply misses the beat and even leaves a few plot points unfinished. Not highly recommended but still watchable, especially if you’re drawn to foreign movies that walk you through a wide range of stunning local landscapes.