With the outbreak of Covid-19 this year, the film industry has certainly taken quite a big hit. Thankfully, I managed to catch The Silent Forest (2020) in cinemas as the circuit breaker restrictions eased up. The film, directed by Ko Chen-nien stars Buffy Chen, Kim Hyun-Bin, Kuan-Ting Liu and Liu Tzu-chuan as its main cast. Nominated for 8 Golden Horse Awards this year for best new director, Ko Chen-nien, best original screenplay, best new performer for Buffy Chen, best supporting actor for Kim Hyun Bin, best editing, best art direction, best film score and best sound effects, winning for best new performer Buffy Chen and best sound effects.
Based on true events, the film tells the story of Chang Chen (Liu Tzu-chuan) a deaf student who transfers to a school for children with special needs from a regular school. However, things are not as they seem within as Chang Chen becomes witness to a case of sexual assault that happens at the back of the school bus. This incident uncovers a larger and deeply buried sexual assault scandal going on within the school. To say that the film is devastating is an understatement. Director Ko Chen-nien carefully and emphatically approaches a topic that is honestly tough to approach, while simultaneously walking us through the passage of suffering the victims go through, detailing the vicious cycle of abuse. All of the actors played their roles perfectly for this film, especially Buffy Chen and Kim Hyun Bin. Buffy Chen brings a sharp emotional depth to her role as Bei Bei, conveying her character’s inner vulnerabilities, turmoil and trauma very well on screen. Kim Hyun Bin plays bully Xiao Gang, the film’s initial antagonist signing the veiled threat of ‘Let’s play together’ frequently throughout the film, bringing another level of maliciousness to the role without dialogue. Another aspect of the film which I thoroughly enjoyed would be its dedication to the use of sign language, adding another layer of realism and dread as the victims suffer in silence while their pleas for help fall on the deaf ears of the school administration. The sound design and the film’s score work in tandem with the lack of dialogue, creating a sense of tension and anxiety that works in the film’s favour.
To conclude, The Silent Forest (2020) is a brilliant portrayal of victims caught in the systemic cycle of abuse that often slips under the radar, ignored and covered up. The film poses a question: Who are we really trying to protect?
I highly recommend whoever reads this give the film a watch.
The Silent Forest is in theatres now.