Le Pacte du Silence Review
When Carmelite nun Sister Sarah (Élodie Bouchez) falls mysteriously ill, she is placed under the care of Jesuit priest and doctor, Fr. Joaquim (Gérard Depardieu). The priest cannot find anything physically wrong with the young woman, but is concerned by unintelligible phrases she cries out in the midst of terrible nightmares. He is also suspicious of the behaviour of Mother Emmanuelle (Carmen Maura) whose protective behaviour seems to hide a secret and is not just the discretion of the reclusive religious order. He finds that Sister Sarah has a twin sister, Gaëlle, who has been in prison for as long as Sarah has been a nun, since they were both 14 years old. His investigations lead him to find that both girls were involved in the mysterious death of a child many years ago.
Up to this point the film holds some promising possibilities, but it really fails to deliver on the set-up, and stumbles through some unpalatable and incomprehensible plot contrivances. The unlikely sight of a group of Carmelite nuns participating in a bizarre Brazilian voodoo ritual is actually one of the less ludicrous events the film expects you to accept. Nevertheless, the actors bravely play their parts well - a good cast taking this nonsense far more seriously than it deserves. There are one or two Vertigo references in the film, but I’m really doing the film a favour by even alluding to Hitchcock in this review. Of all the possible directions the film could have taken, it slides into the most ludicrous nonsense imaginable. Depardieu’s character’s background as a child is alluded to, but we never really find out to what purpose. The ending, with some very poor and unconvincing effects shots of Élodie Bouchez as twins, seems to forget all characterisation up to then, poor though it was, and settles for a series of pointless killings. The original plot is thrown out the window, the killings at the end don’t seem to have any purpose or justification and the whole finale seems rushed, forced and incomplete.
The anamorphic 2:35:1 image is impressive. There are no signs of compression artefacts, no marks or flaws, just fabulous detail and sharpness with well-balanced, true colours. If I had to be picky, it is just a touch dark and over contrasted, making blacks look particularly heavy and there is some minor edge enhancement – but otherwise this is a fine picture.
The original French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive – a warm, full sound, making good use of all speakers and surrounds for ambience and sound effects.
Optional subtitles are provided in English as well as number of other languages. See sidebar for details.
Commentary – Graham Guit and Élodie Bouchez
Full credit also to Columbia Tristar for including the commentary track from the French release of the film. Director and Graham Guit and Élodie Bouchez (Sarah/Gaëlle) provide come interesting thoughts on the film and its making. The director makes a few hints that it was a somewhat troubled production and that a lot of decisions on the script and the final cut were taken out of his hands by the producers. This would go some way to explaining the mess of the latter half of the film, although to be frank, some of the ideas that Guit says he wasn’t able to include also sound questionable.
The trailer for Le Pacte du Silence (1.31) is seriously off-putting with an appalling voice-over - "One is imprisoned by vows, the other imprisoned by bars"”, growls Voice-Over Man. Trailers are also included for Borderline (0:44) and Darkness Falls (1.50).
Le Pacte du Silence is a rather confused film. It sets out purposefully in one direction and the religious secrecy and mystery hold some good thriller potential, but it quickly loses its way. The Vertigo homage at the end just doesn’t fit with the story we have seen up to then and comes across as contrived and deeply improbable. Full credit though for the presentation of the DVD, with an excellent picture and sound and the inclusion of the French commentary track, which other companies (Pathé) have a tendency to drop for UK releases. A good DVD release however is still not enough of a recommendation to watch this film.