Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Silent House" is another one of those Scream at the Screen movies, in which you want to shout out advice to a character. In this case, a nubile young woman is trapped inside an apparently haunted house for most of the time, and what you want to shout is, Get out of the damn house! Finally, a little beyond the halfway mark, she does escape, running out the front door and flees, weeping and stumbling, down a country road until her Uncle Peter drives along, and they return to the house and she goes back inside.
Soon she's reduced to tiptoeing through the darkness calling out "Uncle Peter?" when not long before she was calling "Dad? Daddy?" This is an optimistic girl. Her name is Sarah, and she's played by Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley. We saw her not long ago in the challenging lead role of "Martha Marcy May Marlene." In that film, she demonstrated she's a gifted actress, and in "Silent House," she performs a rite of passage for many young actresses, as the endangered heroine of a horror film.
I said the house is "apparently" haunted because … well, you'll see. It's nothing as simple as that. The movie is a remake of a horror film from Uruguay, and both the original and the remake claim to have been shot in a single take. I doubt it. If it is, it's the most amazing single take since "Russian Ark," beginning with an overhead crane shot on a lake shore and then traveling down a road and into a house and following the heroine upstairs and downstairs and into the basement. That would take one hell of a cameraman, and there are all kinds of shots where the screen goes dark and cuts could obviously be concealed.
Whatever. The camera remains always close to Sarah, sometimes almost resting on her shoulder, and what's impressive is Olsen's ability to sustain that kind of intense on-cam scrutiny and stay convincingly in character. She has a pretty face, expressive and delicate, and carefully modulates her performance: not overacting, not mugging, not trying to sell us on anything. Some of her best moments communicate silent terror.