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.
In the midst of a civil war, former violinists Jan and Eva Rosenberg, who have a tempestuous marriage, run a farm on a rural island. In spite of their best efforts to escape their homeland, the war impinges on every aspect of their lives.
"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 <email@example.com>
"Tystnaden", "The Silence", is perhaps Bergman's most disturbing film without the shocking images of, say "Cries and Whispers" and "Fanny and Alexander". It is more the atmosphere and what is not said that makes this film so uncomfortable to watch, but that is one of the things I love about the cinema- to be shocked, moved and disturbed by the images. I can understand why some people, my mother for example, do not like Bergman, but I believe he is a great artist and one of the true canonic directors we have, along with the likes of Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Fellini, Tarkovsky and Kubrick (just to mention a few!).
Bergman's women shine in this film, too, although they must have been exhausted afterwards. Ingrid Thulin and Gunnel Lindblom star as the two sisters, whose apparent incestuous relationship has destroyed them both, Esther (Thulin) physically (she is dying) and Anna (Lindblom) mentally. They arrive, with Anna's son Johan, in a foreign city at war, which creates an uncozy atmosphere around Sven Nykvist's exterior shots. The tanks roll down the city streets, becoming a metaphor of the war of emotions between Anna and Esther. Thulin makes a very physically demanding performance, like Harriet Andersson in "Cries and Whispers" she is dying (of cancer?), and her pain is showing. Anna clearly wants to hurt her sister, who is the oldest and smartest of them, by saying cruel things and playing with Esther's apparent sexual love for her.
Sigmund Freud would have loved this film, and Anna seems to want to break free from her sister by having casual sex with a man she meets at a bar. She then tells her sister about it, and Esther's reactions to this is extremely ambiguous, like most of the film is. Anna's wish to become free of her sister is deeply rooted in childhood experiences, and it leads Anna to say things like "I wish she was dead" to the man who does not understand a word she is saying. All these things make "Tystnaden" the disturbing film it is. The only release is when Johan explores the corridors of the hotel alone, meeting a bunch of short men who perform at a circus-like variete Anna visits to escape from the sight of Esther. But Johan meets a kind (or is he a paedophiliac?) old man who works at the hotel, and it is he who has to care for Esther as she draws her last breaths, Anna tearing Johan away from her sister's arm in a very cruel manner. The long periods of silence in the film perhaps makes the title, or perhaps it means that the silence about the sisters' past is never broken to us, the spectators. A lot is left up to us to interpret, typically of Bergman's cinema.
All in all, a very ambivalent, Freudian and disturbing film from one of the masters of the cinema.
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