French novella ("The Silence of the Sea") written in 1942 by Jean Bruller and published secretly under his pseudonym, "Vercors". Which is just as well, as it quickly became a symbol of mental resistance
against the German occupation.
The story centres on an elderly man and his young niece, who are forced to share their home with a German officer named Werner Von Ebrannac, and though they are unable to hinder him directly, they resolve to show resistance by never saying a word to him. The uncomfortable arrangement is complicated by the fact that Werner is a polite Francophile
who genuinely desires amity with his unwilling hosts and between their two warring nations.
A 1946 English TV adaptation was one of the first programmes broadcast by the BBC after the end of World War II
. The book has also been adapted into two French-language films - one of them Jean-Pierre Melville's feature-length debut - and several stage plays.
This work contains examples of:
- Alas, Poor Villain
- Artistic License – History: Part of Werner's Heel Realization comes on a visit to Paris in September 1941, when he reads a memo from March 1941 about operations at Treblinka. Treblinka was not brought into service as an extermination camp until 1942.
- Attempted Rape: Pascal attacks Jeanne in her home when she refuses his advances, but her screams alert Werner.
- Break Them by Talking: Inverted. The uncle and the niece break the officer by not talking.
- During the War: The interplay between a German officer and his two unwilling hosts in a small house in occupied France.
- Elective Mute: The uncle and niece refuse to say a single word to the German officer who has been quartered in their home.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Jeanne and Werner
- External Combustion
- Final First Words: "Adieu", says the niece to Werner as he's leaving.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Werner positively gushes when he sees his hosts' library.
- Heel Realisation: Happens during Werner's time in Paris.
- Hitler Cam: The 1949 film uses this several times, including some instances shot from the POV of the uncle sitting in a chair, but also a couple of shots from the inside of the fireplace as Werner stands over the fire.
- Just Following Orders: Werner is no doubt thinking about this at the end, when, right before leaving, he cracks open an Anatole France book and sees the quote "It is beautiful for a soldier to disobey orders which are criminal."
- La Résistance: Naturally, as the author was a member of the French resistance when he wrote the book.
- No Name Given: In the original novel, the two principal characters are known only as "the uncle" and "the niece". In the 1949 film, Werner is the only character who has a name.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Werner to a tee. As André says, "He seems decent, thank God."
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Werner has Pascal arrested by the Gestapo after the latter assaults Jeanne.
- Place Worse Than Death: When Werner reveals that he has requested a transfer to the Eastern Front, he remarks to his hosts that he is "Off to Hell".
- Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Although Werner barely qualifies as a villain.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The 1949 film omits the Attempted Rape plot point.
- Raised by Grandparents: Jeanne in the 2004 TV film, which changed the relationship of the two main characters to a grandfather and granddaughter.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Although he does it to himself, volunteering to leave his cushy, pleasant duty station in occupied France and instead fight on the Eastern Front.
- Revenge by Proxy: 99 French hostages are shot in retaliation for a Resistance attack that kills two German officers.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: A rare use of this for drama, as Werner doesn't have to leave.
- Thinking Out Loud: Werner, frequently, as he attempts to fill the uncomfortable silence, and connect with his hosts.
- Title Drop
- Tranquil Fury: The humiliated anger of the uncle and niece is palpable, but never finds expression, except maybe in a few Death Glares. In the 2004 film, Werner's reaction when he prevents Pascal's Attempted Rape of Jeanne also qualifies.
- Worthy Opponent: How Werner views France.