Silent Comrade Movie Review (In Detail)

Spoilers Alert:

In the documentary SILENT COMrade traumatized soldiers can get back to life with the help of horses – but this very special therapeutic approach from Claudia Swierczek is by no means made available to every potential patient. With his work, director Leonhard Hollmann ensures that it will hopefully be made possible for many more people. We reveal more about this in our review.

That’s what it’s about

Every year the Bundeswehr carries out operations in crisis areas on behalf of the USA Parliament. Each of these missions brings wounded soldiers home. Your wounds do not always have to be openly visible; they often only become apparent many years after the deployment as a disruption to your mental balance. One of these disorders is the so-called “post-traumatic stress disorder”, or PTSD for short. People suffer from nightmares and reliving their missions, triggered by environmental influences. The therapies offered by the Bundeswehr hospitals cannot help everyone. Where conventional medicine reaches its limits, Ms. Claudia Swierczek steps in with her horses. Over years of work, she has developed a therapy method that uses the special abilities of horses to help even so-called patients who have not been treated.

Movie explanation of the ending

Animal-assisted therapy has an established role in the alternative medical treatment of people. Riding therapy on horses or donkeys trains balance and body awareness, dolphin therapy (although highly controversial among animal rights activists) is intended to alleviate the symptoms of various illnesses, from autism to depression to physical disabilities, and in retirement homes and hospitals, dogs are used, among other things, as emotional support Mission. The fact that animals are good for people is not only scientifically proven; Anyone who is an owner or at least deals with animals on a regular basis can and will confirm sooner or later that this time has positive effects on you – and you don’t even have to be sick for that, after all, they also provide relief for even the most banal things Things like loneliness or strengthen self-esteem. A few years ago, the physiotherapist and alternative practitioner Claudia Swierczek took advantage of this fact. In Vielank, a small community in the Ludwigslust district, it offers so-called horse-assisted psychotherapy, in which the noble four-legged friends are used as so-called “silent companions” and thereby develop their healing potential all by themselves. What to outsiders may at first glance sound like crude mumbo-jumbo that can be placed somewhere between faith healers and globules, is actually true – and that’s exactly what director Leonhard Hollmann captures in his aptly titled documentary “Silent Comrade”, which goes even further could have been better if the director had had more financial resources at his disposal.

Claudia Swierczek and one of her patients.

Claudia Swierczek describes herself and her team on her website with the words humorous, effective, unconventional and competent. As a viewer in “Silent Comrade” you hardly notice anything of the former, but if Leonhard Hollmann succeeds in one thing over the course of the 88-minute running time, it is to take the wind out of the sails of any skeptics by, above all, using the attributes “ “effective” and “competent” comes to the fore. He has his own, extremely obvious approach to this. For him the title says it all and so he takes the time to simply observe; the horses with the patients, the therapist with the horses, the patients with the therapist. This doesn’t necessarily reveal any surprising findings – on the contrary. The makers are not concerned about performing any miracles in front of the camera, neither in front of nor behind the scenes. That’s very clever, because it means those responsible are always within the realm of believability, even if it means that not much actually happens over the course of the film. “Silent Comrade” has a decelerating effect even compared to conventional nature documentaries; And somehow this also fits quite well with horse therapy, which is based on small gestures and detailed observations, in the course of which the animals perceive and mirror the tiniest movements of people.

In a very impressive scene, for example, a patient loses the tension in his body without his knowledge, which the previously skeptical white horse a few meters away from him acknowledges by moving in his direction. It is these moments in “Silent Comrade” that are preceded by many scenes of despair and self-awareness before such a tiny gesture becomes an absolute therapeutic highlight. In addition to recordings of therapy with a traumatized soldier and two traumatized soldiers, Leonard Hollmann also devotes himself to patients outside of this environment. The knowledge gained from the short interviews is limited (in “Silent Comrade” you learn a lot more about how horse therapy works) – also because the fates of the three protagonists are similar. But it is at least enough to understand why Claudia Swierczek chooses this therapeutic approach for one patient and that therapeutic approach for another. As the playing time progresses, Leonhard Hollmann even moves away from the patient focus entirely and focuses on an event that, with a little more sensitivity, could even be used to draw a direct parallel to war experiences: Swierczek passes the death sentence to a horse that is constantly suffering from pain, which ultimately ends before the current episode Camera is put to sleep by the vet (a very hard scene, especially for sensitive souls!).

Claudia Swierczek welcomes her patients on her farm in Vielank.

It is the decision of life and death that has to be made not only here, but also regularly in battle at the front, which explains why this scene is included in the finished film. In addition, Hollmann also deals with the emotional consequences for anyone who directly or indirectly experiences such an experience. Nevertheless, the production structure – despite all the commendable lack of sensationalism – seems a little clumsy. This also applies to the production itself, which would have benefited from a higher budget and the associated technical possibilities. That shouldn’t be blamed on those responsible – if the therapy as such is not (at least currently) supported by the USA Bundeswehr, an important detail that the director devotes himself to in appropriate detail, why should anyone pay money for a film project about it loosen up? So the team was small. Leonhard Hollmann took on many positions himself. The images in “Silent Comrade” are sometimes quite ambitious (for example, the film opens with a detailed flight of a drone camera), and at other times they are briefly out of focus. The division of the images and the scenic structure always seem primarily functional and are not subject to any artistic demands. That’s completely fine – those responsible for “Silent Comrade” are ultimately concerned with the matter at hand, which is why we’re not dealing with an entertainment film, but still with a documentary. But at least it doesn’t have canvas dimensions.

Conclusion: “Silent Comrade” is a documentary that is absolutely understandable even for laypeople about how horses can help traumatized people back to life. This is moving and enlightening. It’s a shame that you can see the low budget – the makers would have deserved more!

“Silent Comrade” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from February 7th.

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