Silence of the Sea. 1949. France. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Courtesy Gaumont

Each fall at MoMA, Gaumont presents a title from its archives in France. This year, Gaumont’s President of the Board, Nicolas Seydoux, and CEO, Sidonie Dumas, introduce Jean-Pierre Melville’s first feature, Silence de la mer (Silence of the Sea), adapted from the famed French Resistance novella.

In wartime France, an idealistic German lieutenant makes nightly visits to the inhabitants of the house where he is billeted, offering monologues on arts and letters and the greatness of the Franco-German union to come. The Frenchman and his niece remain mute in stoic resistance; Melville uses the cinematic devices that characterize his noir films to viscerally express their silence as a matter of survival. Yet Melville also portrays the lieutenant’s disillusionment in the face of the reality of the Nazi campaign with humanity, recognizing the devastation of men from any nation amid the folly of war.

Organized by Sophie Cavoulacos, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.

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