Pete’s Peek | On this day in 1949 – Jean-Pierre Melville’s tribute to the French Resistance, Le Silence de la mer

On this day (22 April) in 1949, director Jean-Pierre Melville released his debut feature, Le Silence de mer, an adaptation of a nouvella by the French author Vercors. Published in 1942, during the Nazi occupation of France, and secretly distributed, it brilliantly captured the spirit of the moment, and soon became a staple of the Resistance.

Melville’s film, which was partly shot in Vercors’ own house, concerns a German officer, Werner (Howard Vernon), who is billeted to the house of an elderly man (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stéphane) in occupied France. Determined to remain resolutely silent during Werner’s stay, the old man and his neice soon find themselves becoming captivated by the erudite officer’s nightly monologues.

One of the most important French films to deal with World War II, Melville uses starkly beautiful images that anticipated the style and vision of Bresson, and remains an elegiac tribute to a symbolically resisting France.

The Masters of Cinema Series special dual format edition features a new HD transfer with improved subtitles; a 23-minute video discussion; and a special booklet. The Blu-ray extra features include Melville Out of the Shadows, a 41-minute French-made documentary about the film; and the original trailer.

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