“Silk”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
February 26, 2008

Set in the 19th century, when Japan was closed to the West, Silk offers an unusual love story revolving around Herve (Michael Pitt), wife Helene (Keira Knightley) and the young unnamed beauty to whom he has never shared a conversation (played by Sei Ashina).

With the small fortune he has made from smuggling silkworm eggs from Japan, Herve purchases a grand home in France with a nice parcel of land that is suitable for Helene’s dream garden.

But when the silkworms die, Herve is commissioned to return to Japan to buy more eggs so the townspeople can resume their lucrative silk-manufacturing business. There, Herve once again sees the Japanese baron’s concubine who stares at him with longing but remains silent.

While he is soaking in a bath, she hands him a note written in Japanese that he later learns reads, “Come back or I will die.” Filled with good intentions, Silk doesn’t carry enough dramatic weight to garner much viewer interest.

That Pitt is American, Knightley is British, and neither attempts a French accent is forgivable. But there is little chemistry shared by any of the leads, who are undeniably gorgeous but in an impassionate and cold way.

Pitt’s mournful delivery and the clunky dialogue don’t help matters much.

Staring at their lush garden full of flowers in bloom, Helene says, “You said this is where we’d grow old. Are we old?”

Near the end of the film, Herve receives another letter written in Japanese that talks at length about love, faith, and the need to go on. The sender of the letter may surprise some viewers, but the ending is more implausible than a revelation.

Based on the novel of the same name by Alessandro Baricco, Silk essentially is little more than a movie of the week disguised as an arthouse film.

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