Recently, there have been some slow-burn indie films that try to channel the energy of the film noirs of the 1940s but don’t quite achieve the same effect, as filmmaking language has undergone such a huge change over the years. People label films as plain boring at the drop of a hat, as they may do for Dan Gremley and Brad Podowski’s Silent as the Grave as well. The film fails to translate its themes into the latest filmmaking technique of ‘intensified continuity,’ avoids the neo-noir tropes, and hence does not succeed in catching our attention. But if, and it’s a big if, one is able to see the film as the non-shadowy noir it’s trying to be, the film is not as bad as it would seem otherwise. Silent as the Grave is a simple film, almost made to be seen with a small gathering of family and friends, but the performances are where the film lacks the most.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Chris Nowak, a documentary filmmaker, is obsessed with the noir films made in the 1940s, a genre known for its gray characters, femme fatales, morally dubious storylines, and the overall intent to challenge the viewers ethics and worldviews. Chris, a family man, was soon to be a father. His happy life was disturbed on Christmas when the topic of Edgar’s demise came up. Edgar Williams, Chris’ uncle, died in 1960, but his death was shrouded in mystery. Someone had been visiting his grave and laying down flowers as if to honor his memory. None of the family members, including Chris’ mother Barb, who seemed to be the most affected by Edgar’s death, had visited his grave in years, and yet there were these mysterious flowers. The natural question arose about the identity of the person who was visiting the grave. Chris was contacted by Barb’s sister, Linda, to play the sleuth and find out about Edgar’s death. What Chris unearthed about the 60-year-old case shook his moral convictions and forced him to face his family’s legacy.
How Did Chris Become Obsessed?
Chris was obsessed with film noirs, and they often feature hard-boiled detectives who delve deep into a case and usually end up uncovering a terrible truth that shouldn’t have been discovered in the first place. Maybe the subconscious desire to be a character in such a noir film had forced Chris to abandon real life completely. He had worked for a long time to complete his documentary on the magic and sinister charm of film noir, and when Linda offered him money to ‘solve’ Edgar’s case, Chris immediately took it up, as if he had been waiting all his life to play this role. Initially, he used the pretext of filming people for his documentary to make them talk about Edgar, hoping they would reveal something, but this was an amateurish approach. People are generally too conscious of the camera, and some, like Sally, refused to be filmed at all, let alone reveal something on camera. Edgar’s case was a strange one. He had died under mysterious circumstances, and there was no real clue to find out how. One thing was certain: someone was placing those flowers over the grave, which is why Chris started to spend more and more time near the cemetery, even abandoning his pregnant wife Naomi after a time, neglecting all the duties of a husband. Naomi left him to stay with a friend, but Chris continued to work on the case, even after he was attacked by two men who asked him to stop looking into the case.
What Was The Significance Of The Prisoner’s Rant?
First, Chris approached all the people who knew Edgar before his death. There was Linda, of course, then there was Sally, and finally he reached Stanley Barkus and his daughter Madelyn. Stanley was the owner of the Halstead Bakery, which used to be known as Barkus Bakery, and it was the place where Edgar had died. There had to be a connection, but according to Madelyn, there were none, and it was simply a tragedy that Edgar died. Stanley was Edgar’s contemporary, and the bakery’s name change was just coincidental, according to Madelyn. These extra pieces of information led Chris to believe that surely there was a missing piece of the puzzle that Barkus was hiding. But he couldn’t get through and tried to focus on the cemetery, placing a hidden camera to catch the person in the act. He did find the man, but it turned out to be just the groundskeeper. He was working under the order of Patricia, the cemetery’s manager. But before he could find out why Patricia was ordering the groundskeeper to place the flowers, he was arrested for trespassing and recording people without their consent. In the prison, there was a strange prisoner quoting the Bible and ranting about how everything a man does is in vain if God isn’t there to watch over him. The meaning of the rant, if connected to the film, could be that Chris’ search for the truth was meaningless if God wasn’t with him. If He were, then the truth would have to prevail, and in the end, that’s exactly what happened.
What Did The Flowers Symbolize?
Chris had looked for Patricia online after finding her name in Edgar’s school yearbook. She looked like his girlfriend from the photos, but he couldn’t be sure that she was still alive. Sally asked Chris to describe the flowers to her, and thereon started Chris’ deeper investigation. According to Sally, flowers always had a meaning, and since Edgar’s grave always had white lilies, it meant that the person was trying to honor Edgar’s love and innocence. The mysterious person could be Edgar’s lover. Could the cemetery’s Patricia be the same as the Patricia found hugging Edgar in the schoolbook’s photos? She had to be. Otherwise, why would she order the groundskeeper to place those flowers on the grave? Another puzzle was that Chris had seen Patricia at Madelyn’s house. How were they related? The answers became clear once he barged into Stanley’s office to find out the truth.
Why Was Edgar Killed? Who Is Madelyn’s Biological Father?
During Silent as the Grave‘ ending, Chris had received a phone call revealing that Edgar had a daughter. Edgar had died in Barkus Bakery, and on top of that, Stanley already knew about Chris’ documentary, which led him to believe he had been deliberately avoiding meeting him. Chris was right, and he also figured that the goons had shown up on Stanley’s behest to stop his investigation. He didn’t want the truth to come out. So, Chris had to confront him somehow. Stanley, too, figured that it was time to get everything off his chest and leave the rest to God. Patricia was Stanley’s wife and Madelyn’s mother, but Stanley wasn’t Madelyn’s father. It was Edgar. The truth was unbearable for Patricia, which is why she gave it away in a cryptic manner on the anonymous call to Chris. The year Edgar died, Patricia had cheated on Stanley with Edgar, and furious Stanley had ended up killing him in the bakery after finding out. But here comes the shocking part. Edgar’s parents knew about the murder and were given a hefty sum as compensation, as if Stanley had killed him by mistake. Sure, Stanley was just a teenager, but he had punched the life out of Edgar. He may not have intended to kill him, but that is what he ended up doing. Edgar’s parents didn’t fight for justice and accepted the money, and the case was closed.
In the end, the meaning of what the word ‘family’ stood for, was destroyed. What could be the best course of action for Chris? To expose Stanley and also risk the reputation of his maternal grandparents? He chose to let sleeping dogs lie and deleted the footage on his phone that had Stanley’s confession on it. The matter solved itself internally when Stanley took Madelyn to see Barb, introducing Madelyn as her niece, in hopes that he would have done something good in the end, reuniting the two. Chris completed his project and had finally cracked the case, which ultimately helped everybody forgive each other and miraculously reconcile the evil deeds of the past with the good ones in the present. The meaning of ‘family’ was resurrected, and Chris became a father with this invaluable knowledge.