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Silent Tongue

Silent Tongue (1993)

January. 28,1993
| Drama Horror Western

Mad with grief after the death of his Kiowa wife, Roe awaits death under a tree with her body beside him. She begins to haunt him because he won't bury her. His father, who bought him the wife, thinks her sister might reason with Roe.


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I love this movie so much

Kaelan Mccaffrey

Like the great film, it's made with a great deal of visible affection both in front of and behind the camera.

Matylda Swan

It is a whirlwind of delight --- attractive actors, stunning couture, spectacular sets and outrageous parties.

Rosie Searle

It's the kind of movie you'll want to see a second time with someone who hasn't seen it yet, to remember what it was like to watch it for the first time.


A more sickening, film, with no plot, continuity, or even good acting I have never seen. It drags on and on. The premise of it is lost on any intelligent individual. If you have a need for electricity to flow through your TV set, then catch it when it shows. I do not know if you could even find it in a Video store, but if you do, you would have done better to give the money spent to rent it to the pan-handler outside. If you want Richard Harris, then watch a Man Called Horse. As far as River Phoenix is concerned, cannot see the fascination viewers have for him.

Richard Burin

This much maligned and very strange Western is ambitious and interesting in places, but also pretentious, convoluted, silly and frequently boring. Shepard's direction is reasonable, and the main theme effective, but the ghost scenes are accompanied by a poor, pounding score and increasingly daft camera-work. The acting is similarly inconsistent: Mulroney is dire in a well-written minor role, and Bates overacts dreadfully, but Harris is fairly good and Phoenix unforgettable (if underused) in his final role. His first scene is particularly potent and moving. Indeed, whenever River is on screen the movie comes to life: his eccentric turn partly compensating for the long periods of poorly scripted shouting.Despite some striking imagery, unusual subject matter and unwanted status as River's swansong, the film's expected cult status hasn't materialised, perhaps because it is plot less and pointless. Filmed for French TV in 1992, but not released until 1994, it grossed just $61,274 in the US. For a better, similarly offbeat modern take on the Western, try Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Silent Tongue is for Phoenix completists like myself only.


Sam Shepard, the writer/director of "Silent Tongue," is one of the big names in contemporary American theatre. So it comes as no surprise that his two feature films (also, "Far North") have a distinctly theatrical tone. General audiences may not have a taste for his style, but Shepard's films richly reward multiple viewings for the open-minded."Silent Tongue" is a ghost story which uncovers a disturbing sickness at the heart of the Old West. River Phoenix becomes mentally unhinged when his Native American bride dies in childbirth. This sends his father, Richard Harris, on a journey to try and find another woman for his son. Exhibiting tragically limited imagination, the father returns to the traveling circus where he traded horses for the first woman, and he attempt a second bargain for the woman's sister. In the end, the sister must confront the dead woman's ghost, and we learn the dark secret of their past.Phoenix is eerily convincing as the mad Talbot Roe, and Richard Harris is uncharacteristic low-key as the world-weary Prescott Roe. Dermot Mulroney, unable to make his character's diction convincing, is perhaps the film's only casting error.


Silent Tongue is a western about a disturbed young man (River Phoenix) who grows increasingly distraught over the death of his white/Amer. Indian wife. His father (Richard Harris) attempts to purchase the dead woman's sister, with the hope that she will be a consolation to his son.What a peculiar movie! I can't say I liked it because there was nothing enjoyable about it ... on the other hand, I didn't hate it because it had some redeeming qualities. For example, Richard Harris (whom you may, perhaps, remember as English Bob in 'Unforgiven') was quite excellent, and director Shepard certainly had some vision for this picture; however, I can't say with any certainty what that vision was.The film struck me as being about the desperation of grief and rage, and how both manifest themselves when they are not addressed or dealt with. The main characters all want to reverse something that has happened, yet the past cannot be changed. The wrongs they perceive were done against them can never be righted. What can they do with their pain except suffer it? They communicate not so much in words as in hurtful behaviors.The film is not pretty to look at: the landscape is dry and yellow; the characters are begrimed and weary. The things they do and ultimately say are just ... ugly. It's an ugly, disheartening picture in which boorish people are motivated by the simplest of emotions to do base things because they cannot cope with reality.