Review: Silence of the Tides (2020)

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Silence of the Tides (2020)

Directed by: Pieter-Rim de Kroon | 102 minutes | documentary

The Wadden Sea is the only Dutch nature reserve that has UNESCO World Heritage status. It is certainly not exclusively located on Dutch territory, but extends to Germany and Denmark. In ‘Silence of the Tides’, director Pieter-Rim de Kroon takes the viewer on a beautiful and titillating journey through the Wadden Sea. Central to this are the tides, which, due to the pulsating rhythm of ebb and flow, form a symbol for the natural cycle of coming and going, but also for the continuous metamorphosis that the Wadden area undergoes.

The landscape, with its salt marshes, mud flats, salt marshes and sometimes almost geometrically perfect interplay of lines, is therefore the protagonist in ‘Silence of the Tides’, while the many animal inhabitants of the Wadden Sea Region form the supporting cast. The spectacular shots focus on the micro and macro levels, both the gigantic and the minuscule. Images of the expansive Wadden Sea beaches or a gigantic cruise ship passing like an ominous sea monster on the misty horizon easily give way to close-ups of a crab outwitting an unlucky shrimp. In any case, ‘Silence of the Tides’ frequently uses the power of contrasts as a narrative instrument. Life and death, light and darkness, ebb and flow: they tell the story of a dynamic landscape that continuously navigates between the creative and destructive power of the elements.

In addition to the beauty, which splashes off the screen thanks to beautiful landscape shots, nature scenes and an ingenious play of light, darkness and color splendor, ‘Silence of the Tides’ also pays attention to the raw sides of life in and around the Wadden Sea. What about two male seals fighting until they bleed for the favors of the sexually mature females. Or of the lamb, which we both see being born and accompany to the slaughter.

The sound is at least as important in ‘Silence of the Tides’ as the image. There is no voiceover and hardly any music, so that the soundtrack is mainly a polyphonic and rich symphony of nature sounds. The sloshing seawater, chattering spoonbills, the breath of fish, roaring seals and the often serene silence in the Wadden area contribute to the atmosphere and versatility of the images.

People pass by sparingly, but are nevertheless seldom completely absent from this breathtaking Wadden portrait. The bearded postman Hannie who delivers his packages in the German Wadden area with a modest locomotive, a jet fighter that carries out exercises, while brutally disrupting the idyll of serenity for a short time, and the boats with revelers that visit the area every now and then: they show that people are always casually present even in an ’empty’ and timeless setting such as the Wadden area.

‘Silence of the Tides’ is an alternately overwhelming and understated ode to one of the most special natural areas in northwestern Europe. A film that evokes a strong back-to-basics feeling and bundles the power of image and sound into a mixed and compelling portrait of the Wadden Sea and its inhabitants.

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