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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 06/11/1998,

Beyond Silence

In this German production, director Caroline Link portrays life with deaf parents as just another obstacle to growing up. Eight-year-old Lara (Tatjana Trieb doing her best Anna Paquin) serves as translator for her parents (Emmanuelle Laborit and Howie Seago), precociously censoring conversations to her advantage. When she's given a clarinet by her feisty Aunt Clarissa (Sybille Canonica), her deaf father dredges up bad family memories of music. Intrafamily tension mounts. Years later, a teenage Lara (an uneven Sylvie Testud) runs away to study clarinet with Clarissa in Berlin and the family dysfunction is complete. Lara and her father can reunite only if they can go . . . beyond silence.

Once you get past the deafness, Beyond Silence is little more than a self-consciously heartwarming story of childhood and teen rebellion. Despite a solid performance by Seago, who's vulnerable and sympathetic as Lara's father, the film indulges in overt sentimentality, blunt metaphor, and predictable plot twists. That it was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar speaks more to the Academy's fondness for disability movies than to the merits of Link's film.

-- Dan Tobin