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The Silence (1963)

Tystnaden (original title)
R | | Drama | 3 February 1964 (USA)
Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.


Ingmar Bergman


Ingmar Bergman
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Ingrid Thulin ... Ester
Gunnel Lindblom ... Anna
Jörgen Lindström ... Johan
Håkan Jahnberg Håkan Jahnberg ... The Hotel Steward
Birger Malmsten ... The Waiter
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"The Silence" is about the emotional distance between two sisters. The younger one is still attractive enough to pick up a lover in a strange city. The older one -- even though she is very ill -- would like to make a human connection also but cannot leave the hotel room. Traveling with the sisters is a small boy who escapes into the hotel, meets a troupe of dwarfs. Which sister is this little boy's mother? Written by Dale O'Connor <daleoc@interaccess.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


BERGMAN at his most POWERFUL! SHOCKING! BOLD! See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Towards the end of the movie Anna says she is going to take the train at 2 o'clock, in the German version this is translated as her taking the train at 3 o'clock. See more »


[first lines]
Johan: [points to a sign] What does that mean?
Ester: I don't know.
See more »

Alternate Versions

A brief shot of Anna's naked torso, just prior to her having sex with the café waiter, has been excised from the U.S. version. Also, a subsequent scene in which the waiter is seen sodomizing Anna is cut at the beginning of the sex act. In the original version this sequence continues for another twenty seconds. See more »


References The Rules of the Game (1939) See more »


Coffee Bean Calypso
Music by Dolf van der Linden (as Silvio Pinto)
See more »

User Reviews

Like the title suggests, it's almost a silent film, and at times a quiet film, but thought provoking
7 August 2005 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

It's hard for me to say that the Silence is one of writer/director Ingmar Bergman's best films- it's a fascinating film, filled with various images meant for symbolic value (some that succeed, some not as much), and with a certain experimentation that would continue with Bergman into the late 60's- but it is something that does have an underlying impact.

It is, personally, my least favorite in the 'trilogy' of Bergman's (the previous two being the masterpiece Through a Glass Darkly, and the strong Winter Light), but it is a very frank film, and like the best of the theater, Bergman knows that not letting the audience know everything is a bonus, especially when dealing with complexities and up-front issues in this film. For its time it was very controversial due to the sexual nature of the film (it's uncut on the criterion DVD, and it is of note that Bergman is dealing with the carnal side- nudity, loveless passions, suggestions of incest), yet it is mostly an honest portrayal of this.

Ingrid Thulin (Ester) and Gunnel Lindblom (Anna) star as sisters (at least I think they're sisters, by description of the plot, sometimes that too is left unclear) who start off in a train, along with Lindblom's son Johan, played by Jorgen Lindstrom (later to appear in the opening scenes of Persona). Each character is very sharply defined, which carries through the rest of the film- Ester is sick, and lonely, who works part-time as a translator, but mostly acts repressed, sad, and rather disgusted by the actions of her sister Anna (though mostly in a subtle way that gets to her). Anna, meanwhile, is the mother of Johan, who loves her son but usually can't stand to be around the hot, claustrophobic hotel room. She goes out into the jazz music scored city cafés, having strange and explicit encounters (one of the more shocking and effective scenes is inside a theater, where as dwarfs act on the stage, to Anna's right a couple has animistic sex).

She, too, tries to satisfy her emptiness this way, leading to a difficult, harsh climax. The two actresses play their parts, whether it sometimes becomes a little tiresome (in the brooding, Antonioni sense I mean) due to Bergamn's direction, as strong as they can play it. Thulin is, even when she has her Cries & Whispers type scenes, at her best in the film, showing her skills at being calm, inward, and psychologically nuts. Another reviewer commented on the Freudian elements in the film, the obsessions of women, or the repression with it. There is a sharp contrast then with Thulin's thoughtful, hurting performance, and Lindblom's passionate, lusting, and ultimately desperate performance. Each character is only looking for love, and since they can't find it with each other, they can't seem to find it with others outside of the Hotel walls.

Stuck in the middle of them is Johan, who is played by Lindstrom with total innocence, if at times disillusionment. Bergman directs him and writes what he does and observes perfectly- kids usually find things to do even in the most lonely of situations, and there's some fun (if very surreal in the Bergman cannon) in an encounter he has with the dwarfs. But with Johan as well, amid the vast corridors, there is little for him to do. Early on when they get to the hotel, there is a somewhat disturbing little moment where Anna asks for him to wash her back. He does for a few seconds, but stops. She understands in some way, and the two spend a moments of close silence. Being a ten year old without any real connections (he comments to Ester at one point about her not being around) creates a sense of detachment, which pervades almost every scene of the film.

And it is this detachment that I found a little troubling about the film (and not quite in a good way). The themes of the Silence, and its execution, is a little hard to take on the first viewing, and one wonders if it would be more enlightening, depressing, or even worth it for a second viewing. It's not that the Silence is a lessor Bergman work, far from it, but the experimentation that he goes through with the characters is hard to connect with- it's the least of the 'trilogy' that deals with God (at least on the surface like a Seventh Seal), but due to its limited dialog, he relies heavily on symbolism and the straight images of people in emotional desolation, not always workable or connecting.

Still, there is one side to this experimentation that I found to work best- the work with legendary Sven Nyvist. It is an enclosed space, but there is much that is covered in technical terms, and in terms of just the camera-work it is one of Bergman's more inventive and deep touches. The deep focus/long shots in the corridors; the close-ups of Ingrid Thulin's face (upside down in a few scenes, highly effective); the images that race across Johan's eyes, like on the train (the fake tanks), the baroqueness of the butler; the sex scenes in a beautiful mix of truth and illusion.

The Silence demands to have some thought put to it, or at least some emotion, even as it takes its deliberate time: a little empty, but also fulfilling, and in the end asks more personal questions that can't be answered, much like how the other films in the trilogy did with the subject matter.

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Swedish | English | German | French | Spanish

Release Date:

3 February 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Silence See more »


Box Office

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (AGA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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