‘The Silence of the Marsh’ is pretty linear. Its short runtime barely leaves room for any complex developments. In the opening scenes itself, the film establishes that its main character, Q, is a murderer who uses his own killings as narrative devices for writing his crime novels.
There’s a scene where he conducts a book signing event where one of his fans approaches him. She curiously asks him about the past of the main character of his novels and through this, she hopes to know more about the reasons behind his psychotic behavior. Q, knowing that all of his stories are his own real-life encounters, simply responds: “because he can.” This scene later comes in tandem with the ending of the film and also explains the inner workings of a psychopath, who himself has no clue why he’s relentlessly killing people.
Q, a crime writer, literally murders people in real-life and then makes them mere characters of his own novels. For his new novel, he decides to abduct Carreterro, an Economics Professor at a University. This kidnapping not only marks the inception of his new novel but also wreaks havoc in the real world of the most powerful people in the Valencian Community. He refers to them as “the reeds”: the ones who are able to grow on the marshy lands of their swamp without really feeding on anything. To bring them down, he devises the perfect plot to pull off the murder of the professor, reveals all of his corrupt methods of gaining riches, and writes a bestselling novel without raising any suspicion.
The two-fold narrative of the film primarily revolves around two characters. One, of course, is all about Q’s narration of how he investigates Carreterro’s dark secrets. The other one revolves around a thug who is given the responsibility of finding Carretero. One thing leads to another and in the final moments of the film, the thug finally ends up at Q’s home. A brief face-off ensues between the two before Q finally shoots him dead. Soon after this, Q leaves his home and finds another one of the hired thugs standing right outside his home. Guilt-ridden, instead of shooting this man, Q simply rests his gun on the side of his home and stands right next to the swamp around his house. While he takes a final look at the view and repents all of his crime, the thug picks up his gun and shoots him. However, this is not where the film ends.
The Ending: What’s Real and What Isn’t?
Despite being pretty linear throughout its runtime, ‘The Silence of the Marsh’ has a very strange ending. In its final scenes, right after the part where Q gets shot, Q can be seen sitting on the desk of his home, taking print outs of his first draft. At first, it’s hard to comprehend what’s truly going on here. But eventually, it becomes clear that many aspects of the movie, especially the part where he gets shot in the back, were merely parts of his novel and did not truly happen. This also explains why almost all the scenes where Q is portrayed have been depicted as the protagonist’s first-person encounters.
The ending of the film basically becomes a narration that the main character was writing for his novel all this while. Many would already be familiar with this trope as it has already been used in several other films such as ‘American History X’ and also in literature classics such as ‘The Outsiders.’
The ending, again, makes you wonder if any other plot points of the film were true or were simply a part of Q’s novel. For the most part, almost everything that happens throughout the runtime of the film is actually happening in real life and is not just a part of Q’s novel. The reason why Q chooses to end his novel like that is probably because he’s a great writer and he wants his readers to connect with his character.
In contrast to this, in real life, he feels no guilt or remorse towards killing anyone because he is a psychopath. This also harkens back to the opening scenes of the film where Q reads out an excerpt from his book and parallelly, the film depicts how everything he’s reading actually happened. In this reading, he highlights how one has to strip all feelings and emotions before attempting to murder someone. He claims that the cab driver he initially murdered might have been a good man to others and may even have a family. But in those moments, he couldn’t see the good in him.
Similarly, even with Carreterro, although Q knew nothing about his personal life, he was very well aware that the man was feeding off on the nation’s wealth with his drug smuggling scandals. Thus, he ignored all of his feelings of empathy towards him and decided to kill him. All of this makes Q more of an anti-hero whose reasons for murdering people are quite justified; at least in his head, they are. However, the final moments of the film suggest that he would’ve killed anyone who would try to cross his path and would have somehow justified that as well.
Apart from all of this, the film also serves an allegory to the complex political system pertinent in many societies. As Q suggests, the rich and the powerful are like “reeds.” They are tall, strong, and grow out of nothing but water, while the rest of the world around them simply tries to thrive on trash.
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