Thursday, 17 July 2008

Orly Yadin & Sylvie Bringas "Silence"

In the city of Stockholm in 1995 Tana Ross played cello for a specially composed piece by Noa Ain: "Through the Silence — Concerto for Cello & Survivor". Tana had survived the holocaust. She subsequently approached her friend, Orly Yadin, who together with Sylvie Bringas made the magnificent and powerful animated documentary Silence (1998). Narrated by Tana herself, it is the story of a young girl who is protected by her grandmother through the the darkest days when her family are taken away from her whilst she remains hidden. Surviving the war she and her grandmother settle with the girl's uncle, a professional orchestra conductor. Responding to family pressure, she remains silent about her trials until, at the age of twenty, she is given a small parcel of letters that throws light on her past. The 11 minute animation is not grueling in a way holocaust stories often are, and should be. It answers the question why it took 50 years for Tana to describe what happened to her. If you had been hidden in clothing baskets or packing cases, as other children were rounded up and transported in cattle trucks to death camps, perhaps the habit of silence would be hard to relinquish. The movie is made up of different styles. It commences with grey, contemporary footage as well as an image of her mother, then we progress through black and white often symbolic animation before full colour is used as we move to Sweden and freedom. It is a film of understated images that nevertheless reveal the tension and tragedy: insects being swept up and transforming into children, the suitcase into which the child and subsequently adult crawls or the flashback as a railway porter becomes a Nazi soldier. The film is full of crowds obscuring the girl, of sidling into corners and doorways, closing curtains, entering and leaving. Evasion. Two animators worked on the movie: Ruth Lingford for the black and white first section that sinuously unravels Tana's early days - evasive, shifting, shadowy; Tim Webb animates the colour scenes in a slightly more literal style though very much from a child's perspective. Orly's music is used to moving effect in this joint British and Swedish production. For very good reason, copies of the film are used in Sweden's schools. Two links. The Internet Archive has a higher resolution download and Orly writes at length on the making and the origins of her outstanding movie in a paper, But Is It A Documentary? Postcript: I write a lot of reviews and always stand to be corrected. In the case of Silence Orly has made the following clarifications: "Tana did not play the cello in Stockholm - she recited the words of the tone poem that she and Noa Ain had written. Her recital was accompanied by a cellist playing Noa's music. Secondly, towards the end you say "Orly's music" - it is not my music - we used some of Noa's music and also Sibelius for the piano playing sequence." Finally a plug for Orly's DVD - "A DVD with many many extras (storyboards, early versions of the scripts, statement by the filmmakers and the animators etc) is available for purchase. Anyone interested can go onto my distribution website -, or email me direct at" I hope this clarifies things what is a remarkable movie.


dellyrio said...

I have been following this blog for a while now and it is mind boggling how nobody ever comments on your posts. I won't let that stop me from saying that this blog has become one of my most treasured gems in the net. I recently went to Anima Mundi here in Rio and was amazed to see The Tourists there just a couple of days after discovering it here. Congratulations and please keep it up.

Just out of curiosity, I was wondering what it was that inspired you to continue posting even without much feedback (at least not apparently), and then it occured to me that maybe you use this blog as a teaching device? Your profile says you teach animation... Sorry for my curiosity.

Ian Lumsden said...

Thank you dellyrio,
A "treasured gem". Thanks again for your kind words. I have no idea why I get few comments and true to tell it has concerned me a little. Either what I have to say is so fatuous or badly written that people are not interested or I'm not self-publicising enough; maybe writing or reading about animation, as opposed to animating or viewing, is not so popular. I have no idea really. I get by far more emails than posts, often from animators or publicists and they seem to like the blog. Writing a blog is actually a form of vanity writing and I guess I must be vain to continue. But it is fun. The range of work I review is eclectic. Sometimes, as with today's post, the number of viewers on YouTube for that quite inspiring movie is ridiculously small compared with some piece of tat that obtains huge viewing figures. Such is life. I never make snide or bitchy comments in my reviews. Maybe that’s the way to drive up the comments. Not for me though.

I use some of the material in the blog for teaching purposes – today for example. Mostly though it reflects a genuine interest of mine together with an admiration for those talented individuals who are under-appreciated. Anima Mundi sounds fun. Spread the word in Rio!