The German film The Silence qualifies as an above-average thriller that puts more stock in psychological tension than cheap manipulation. Director Baran bo Odar makes his feature debut with the story of a janitor (Ulrich Thomsen) who rapes and kills an 11-year-old girl he finds bicycling on a lonely country road in the middle of a wheat field. Wotan Wilke Möhring plays the skittish Timo, a man who was riding with the murderer at the time of the killing. After the initial crime, which takes place in 1986, the movie leaps ahead 23 years: The murder remains unsolved, and Timo is now a father with a wife and two kids. When another girl is murdered in exactly the same spot as the first victim, the story takes on a host of new and residual psychological burdens. The mother of the first victim (Katrin Sass) remains tormented by the unsolved crime. She begins an affair with the retired detective (Burghart Klaussner) who worked on the case and who refuses to let it go. Another detective (Sebastian Blomberg) stays involved, but has lost his edge as the result of the recent death of his wife. Odar stirs this pot well, keeping us off balance and building toward a conclusion that, to its credit, doesn't follow the same old script. Creepy when it needs to be, The Silence is full of characters who suffer the kind of pain for which there can be no remedy. By extension, it's possible to wonder whether such pain isn't a necessary ingredient in the unsteady process that continually refines our humanity. The character who seems to feel the least amount of pain is also the movie's most despicable.