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The Cries and Whispers of Silence
Galina_movie_fan8 January 2006
The title of a dark and erotic final chapter of "faith" trilogy may sum up Bergman's own philosophy regarding religion and God – "God has never spoken because He does not exist". Bergman mentioned that he wanted to make a film with as little dialog as possible because "he had made many films with a lot of talking". He wanted "The Silence" to be a pure cinematographic experience where the images do all the talking. The films centers on two sisters, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna, (Gunnel Lindblom) to whom Ester is physically attracted. Esther, Anna and her 10-year-old son travel together and had to stop in a hotel located in an unnamed European country due to Esther's serious illness.

The film may be viewed on several levels -as the story of two sisters who apparently used to be close but are not able to communicate and understand one another anymore. Or it can be interpreted as a parable of Sensuality, Intellect, and Innocence, that cannot coexist in the world where God does not exist. As with every great and intelligent work of art, "The Silence" has so much to offer to its viewer, it's got so many questions to ask and it does not provide the easy answers.

Complex, suffocating, screaming through the silence, poignant, passionate, harrowing yet strangely hopeful and even funny sometimes - this is an unforgettable film, a masterpiece, a hidden treasure that has to be rediscovered and to receive as much praise and admiration as "Persona" and "Cries and Whispers" - for both of which "The Silence" was an inspiration. The acting by two Bergman's actresses is a miracle (as usual) as well as Sven Nykvist's camera work in creating the claustrophobic world where silence cries, whispers, and kills...
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This is Bergman at his most disturbing.
braugen2 April 2003
"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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Amazing, but not entertaining
thomasandrussell21 September 2004
I am neither an expert on Bergman, nor on film, so I refer you to the many thoughtful reviews others have written; but reconsider the comments that "nothing happens in this film." Yes, it does seem much longer than 95 minutes, but only because it is so dense, because so much happens. Each look, each word carries emotions and meanings that require interpretation and re-interpretation. This is not a fun movie. We watch a woman die--slowly--and her relationship with her sister fester. Whatever the women try to say, they seem not to be able to say what they mean, or not to be able to mean anything. The son/nephew meanwhile wanders the halls of their hotel alone, somehow beyond or below any communication. There is indeed little action, aside from the sexual forays that serve to exacerbate rather than relieve the tension.

This is a desolate film, and no redemption from the loneliness of death and individuality may be possible other than the consciousness of the beauty of that desolation. But it is beautiful.
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Watch Bergman's life's work and save yourself a bundle on film school
WCS0223 February 2004
An Ingmar Bergman film always takes me to film school. `Silence' offers the PhD. Metaphors and character arcs: No one does it better than Bergman.

It's a study in contrasts. It's about the strife sewn into the lining of family intimacy, contrasted with the perfection of strangers engaged in the base behaviors. Complexity vs. Simplicity. The common ground shared by youthful innocence and ignorance vs. the confusion imposed by years of living. Short people seeking acceptance vs. normal folk who are so completely unacceptable to each other. It's about a dying woman whose life's work is translating one language to another so others can understand it vs. two people who speak the same language who cannot understand each other (further) vs. two other people who speak different languages who have a better understanding than those sharing a common lexicon. And on and on.

Watching this film, it occurred to me how deeply Bergman's work influenced the likes of Kubrick and Hitchcock and Aldrich and Leigh … so many more. 2001 Space Odyssey, Psycho, so many of the great films have seeds here. The screen was Bergman's canvas; the camera his brush. Neither the script nor the imagery alone created the work. His work has a soul from the combination of all of it.

Watch Bergman's life's work and save yourself a bundle on film school. You'll be in the master's care.
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One of the greatest films ever made
mlumiere4 February 2003
A landmark film - pure breakthrough cinema from Bergman - not just depicting, but living inside the existential dread-abyss of Modernity and its loss of mythic meaning. Two sisters' polarized answers to that dread - one deadens herself - the other seeks escape in mindless sensuality - while the son is abandoned to wander in an empty hotel with only absurd characters to play with, all in a stifling, gray, nameless, tank-ridden, Soviet-Kafkaesque-Eastern block industrial- waste, oppressive city. (I'd be very surprised if this film wasn't a seminal influence on David Lynch.) Brilliant performance by Ingrid Thulin as the cerebral, repressed sister. Startling and beautiful imagery and montage (visual and aural), brilliantly depicting the alienated inner and outer worlds.
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Silence reveals
andrabem2 July 2007
Ester, Anna and her little son, Johan. They arrive in a strange city in a strange country. The two sisters have a long-standing love-hate relationship covered by the veneer of a fragile truce. Johan (Jörgen Lindstrom) tries to hold on to his mother Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) but she's too busy with her own desires and resentments to pay him much attention. Ester (Ingrid Thulin), Anna's older sister, is very sick - she represents for Anna an authority figure (once feared and respected).

Ester, Anna and Johan are in a city whose language they don't understand and no one understands their language. Isolation, silence.

There's something surreal, almost buñuelesque, in "The Silence". Johan sees and feels many things, but he can't really understand them. The train is arriving in the city and Johan stares out of the train window - he sees many war tanks heading somewhere. He doesn't know what to do with himself... he wanders through the corridors of the hotel in which they are staying and he meets midgets from a wandering troupe. The relationship between the two sisters, Anna (his mother) and Ester (once so strong and now so very sick) is growing tenser. Johan tries to understand, walks along the hotel corridors, plays... he tries to lean on someone.

We see through the eyes of Johan (chaos and the search for love) and Anna (rebellion, desire, the search for something/someone) and Ester (fear and hope succeeding each other).

Ester, Anna and Johan - they are together but so very far apart. Johan, Anna's little son, is the only one that wants to establish a real connection, but when the film ends, he has already begun to suspect what life's about - the first steps to a rude awakening.

There are not many films like "The Silence". This film is really what could be called a masterpiece. It is very difficult for me to describe "The Silence" and the feelings/emotions it provoked in me. All I can say that it is a very rich film and each viewing will reveal new things and different angles to the viewer. "The Silence" is cinematic art in its purest form.
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Bleak and beautiful film
dionysus-623 March 1999
A harrowing film. Two sisters and a young son spend some time in a town whose language they do not speak. It's dejected and lonely, as bleak as Bergman gets. Supposedly it's about faith; it is part of his "religous trilogy" (along with Through the Glass Darkly). The town is strange and eerie and alien. The sisters' non-understanding of the native tongue brings to a focus their alienation from each other as well as from everyone else - you'll feel it too. It's not a pleasant film to watch, but it's beautiful nonetheless.

By the way, Kubrick fans will love looking at how this film influenced The Shining. The film is rife with long sweeps through the hotel where the sisters are staying. Abandoned opulant hotel corridors swim by, lazy and radiant with mesmerizing patterns. However, this film is even more dejected and alienating than The Shining. And the sex scene is one of the most unappealing I've ever scene; It's ridiculously cold.
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God's Silence: the Negative Print.
tintin-2313 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"The Silence" followed immediately "Winter Light.". It is the third of the trilogy that started with "Through a Glass Darkly." As with its two predecessors, "The Silence" is also a "chamber work," in the sense that Bergman uses only a few leading characters (Ester, Anna, and Johan), and the work takes place over a limited time period, about twenty-four hours, and very restricted in space.

"The Silence," although connected to the previous two films, announces a new style in Bergman's films. In this film, Bergman has reduced the dramatic substance to virtually nothing. Although almost nothing happens during the film, still viewers are captivated, not by the dialogue, which is sparse and spare, but by the images.

Sven Nykvist gives the movie the look of a dream, without indulging in dream effects. The images have a unique richness of shading, and their compositions and the play of shadows have a strong dramatic meaning. Of particular note is the shot which occurs when Anna is leaving for her final date with the young waiter. This shot is the precursor of the ying-yang shot that will later be used with great effect in Bergman's "Persona."

The soundtrack consists only of real sounds, as opposed to "wall-paper" music. There is no music in the film, except when Ester tunes in Bach's music on the radio. Also, just as a musician does, Bergman very effectively uses silences throughout the film.

As always, Bergman's choice of actors is inspired. Gunnel Lindblom gives a convincing performance of a lusty Anna, in sharp contrast with the intellectual and controlled character of her sister, brilliantly interpreted by Ingrid Thulin. For the first time, Bergman makes a child a major character. He treats this scared and at times even unattractive boy, sensitively but without sentimentality.

Ingmar Bergman's "The Silence" is arguably the most abstract and nihilistic film of the trilogy. The silence in this film goes beyond God's silence of "Winter Light:" it is now absolute silence, including the complete cessation of communication between human beings. The atmosphere is claustrophobic and suffocating. The film has for its setting Timoka, a strange city, in a strange land on the verge of a war. War is by definition the end result of total, absolute breakdown in communication. The war setting also symbolizes the feelings of antagonism, separation, and fear which engulf the two sisters. The language of this country is totally incomprehensible to the three travelers, even to Ester who is by profession an interpreter familiar with linguistics.

The communication breakdown in the film is universal. The three travelers can scarcely communicate their basic needs to the porter, and they must resort to hand gestures, grunts, etc, to express themselves. Attempts at communication between the two sisters are merely lacerating verbal jousts. The mother and son are worlds apart. Johan is repeatedly left to himself, as his mother goes about her business of arguing with her sister or fornicating with her lover. Anna and her lover cannot communicate except in a physical way, which Anna finds convenient.

The characters of the sisters could not be more dissimilar. They are the opposing elements of a single psyche. Anna is sensual and instinctive. Ester is an intellectual, afraid of her instincts, and pathologically driven by a need to control. She loves her sister, and feels responsible for her, yet needs to control her, as their father once controlled her (Ester) with his love. But Ester is also unable to express this love, which can be misconstrued at time as incestuous, to Anna. Anna loves Ester, but is unable to effectively express her feelings to her. She is overwhelmed by Ester's need to control and restrain her. Regarding Anna's attitude toward her son, she is at once caring and rejecting. Obviously, these mixed signals from his mother are both disturbing and overwhelming to Johan. She is the closest human being in his life and she is unable to communicate unambiguously her feelings to him. Clinging desperately to his mother, he is rejected and forced into the "real" strange and bewildering adult world. The only incident where Johan feels somewhat unthreatened is when he is accepted in the company of the dwarfs. The dwarfs are adults, but they are Johan's size, so he feels at ease with them as he would with children of his own age. Otherwise, Johan is an outside observer of the world around him.

The old floor porter is also struggling to communicate with his guests. He shows his genuine concern for Ester's welfare, but he is still powerless in establishing a real communication. With Johan he also fails, because of the language barrier, because of the age gap, and maybe because his friendliness is instinctively misunderstood by Johan (and I am sure by many viewers).

There is a brief moment of communion between the protagonists provided by few bars of one of the "Goldberg Variations" (the 25th). They are heard on Ester's radio and result in an instant communication between Ester and the old porter, but also with every one else present, as we see through the large doorway a "Pieta:" Johan is on Anna's lap being caressed and kissed. The old man pronounces the name of the composer "Johan Sebastian Bach," with a stress on the name "Johan," implying everyone's connection with and through the young boy.

God has totally disappeared from the scene. After a prolonged, suffocating attack, Ester implores God to allow her to die in her own homeland. But God is silent and she is left to die alone and abandoned in a strange land.

Although a rather depressing film, "The Silence" nevertheless ends on a hopeful note: Ester and Johan have been able to communicate with each other. Before leaving, Johan hugs his aunt, in the only display of love in the film, and Ester is able to translate few words from the strange language of Timoka into Swedish, which she passes on to Johan.
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A demanding movie even for mature audiences
JuguAbraham3 October 2008
There are different strokes to appreciate The Silence.

The first is the theological/existential perspective. Contrary to many published reviews on the trilogy, I find the three films affirm the existence of God in the face of doubt. What is the silence referring to? God appears to be quiet; yet the ailing Ester communicates with her nephew by providing him a piece of paper with a foreign word "hadjek" that means "soul" or "spirit". Is that a word that a woman disillusioned with existence of God would pass on to her nephew on her deathbed? I have doubts about Bergman's professed agnosticism. "Hadjek" is the last word of The Silence spoken by Johan reading from the list of foreign words from Ester's letter to him that he jealously guards from his own mother Anna. Somewhat like "rosebud" in Citizen Kane. Again there are two shots towards the end of The Silence that offer Christian symbolism affirming faith in God. First, there is the last shot of Ester her face directed at light from the window, fully exposed to light, as she waits for her eventual death, content at having passed on the letter to her nephew. The second is the last shot of Anna her bathing her face in rainwater (a symbol of baptism) having read the contents of the letter that Johan holds in his hands.

Now Bergman gave names to his film's characters with considerable thought, incorporating Biblical connections that he probably picked up from his father's sermons. The priest Tomas in Winter Light is so named because St Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ, just as Tomas is questioning the existence of God. Ester in The Silence is obviously named after the Biblical book Esther, one of the only two books in the Bible that does not mention God directly. Does the absence of God mean the book is not holy? By corollary, does the silence of God mean that God does not exist? For the atheist viewer of The Silence, too, there is sufficient room to record the director's observation of deserted churches—when Anna truthfully confesses to her elder sister that she had sex with a waiter in an empty church. For the existentialist viewer, there is silence from God to the cries of help from Ester. Yet another way to appreciate The Silence is to study the physical silence in the film. Spoken words are indeed few. The film begins with the tick-tock of a watch/clock, which stops when the characters break their silence. The watch is also a metaphor for the limited time of life on earth available for each individual. The sound of the tick-tock increases when Ester is unable to breath and is mortally afraid of dying from suffocation. It is also heard when Anna is reflecting on her post-coital satisfaction in her hotel room. Words are few—the foreign words learnt in the unnamed country relate to "hand", "face" and finally "soul". Much of the visual communication relates to "hands" and "faces", particularly those of Ester. Ester's hands move even when she is sleeping. Ester's hand caresses Anna's hair but stops short of touching the face. The denizens of the unnamed country hardly speak, yet we know all is not well, with tanks moving in the night and underfed horses pulling carts of furniture to nowhere. Death seems around the corner. One of the few other sounds we hear is the click of the toy gun, disturbing the cleaner of the chandelier. Then there is the clank of the tank negotiating the narrow street outside the hotel. More importantly, silence in the film between individual characters in the film, existing side by side with the theological silence.

A third way to evaluate complex issues of The Silence is to study the camera-work of Sven Nykvist. Much of the brilliance of the black-and-white film revolves around shadows and light, mirrors and last but not the least, close-ups. The carnal events are captured in shadows, while epiphanies are swathed in bright light. Nykvist and Bergman use mirrors to indicate the lack of direct communication or rather the presence of bounced communication. When Ester, the translator of languages cannot converse with the maitre d'hotel, she resorts to sign language—even the boy Johan prefers Punch and Judy to communicate his feelings rather than read a book for his sick aunt. The extraordinary performance of one of cinema's finest actresses, Ingrid Thulin, would have been difficult to perceive were it not for Nykvist's close-ups of her face and hands.

A fourth way to approach The Silence is the character of the young boy Johan, who probably is the personification of the young Bergman. Johan is a mix of irreverence (he urinates in the hotel corridor) and innocence (he willingly cross-dresses at the behest of the dwarfs). He is attached to his mother, but respects his aunt even more. As the film un-spools, it is evident that he obeys his mother but is able to connect with the aunt's higher level of intellect, quite aware that she is dying. Johan's father exists but is not physically present. Johan is figuratively squeezed between his mother lacking a "conscience" and an aunt with a domineering and an implied lesbian relationship with his own mother. It is not a perfect life for a boy. Indirectly, Bergman wants the viewer to step into Johan's shoes, irreverent yet innocent and loving. Johan is first introduced to death by the personal collection of family photographs of the maitre d'hotel, including photographs of his dead wife. But John prefers to hide them beneath the carpet but resurrects the subject in his own Punch and Judy show for his aunt.

Then you can look at The Silence as the quintessential Ingrid Thulin film. In The Silence her facial expressions are the very imprints one associates with Peter O'Toole's thespian turns in cinema. It is no wonder that she acted in films of topnotch directors: Bergman, Visconti, Resnais and Minnelli.
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Igmar at his most cinematic
dennis7025 January 2005
This film marked a turn for Igmar Bergman's career. While always great, most of his films from the fifties are always plagued with an excess of theatricality and long parliaments. However this 1963 film he creates a strange world with very little dialogue and surreal imagery a la Bunuel (See the scene with the dwarfs)

For the time the film was also very shocking because of the sexually explicit scenes. The film starts with two sisters and a boy (the son of one of them), travelling by train into a strange country in the verge of war. They decide to stay in an almost empty hotel, where most of the film takes place.

The film involves themes like, incest, lesbians, alienation and the impossibility to communicate in general. Not to be missed.

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One of the great movies
ian_harris7 May 2003
Do not be put off by some reactions to this movie. It is not easy to watch, as it is light on plot and deliberately obscure in places. But if you can go with the flow of the film, you will be rewarded with some top class acting, incisive argument and lots to think about afterwards. It reminds me a little of a Pinter play - if you like those you should also like this film.

The film also has one or two monumental pieces of cinematography - not least the scenes with the small boy in the large lobby of the hotel - far more effective in this film than in the "tribute use" by Kubrick in the Shining many years later. The shots of tanks rolling through the unnamed Southern European town will stick in my mind for a long time.

Ingrid Thulin and Gunnel Lindblom were two of Bergman's best women and he works with them to terrific effect in this movie.

This is one of the great movies - highly recommended.
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Lack of Connection and Communication
claudio_carvalho2 November 2010
While traveling back home by train, Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), her son Johan (Jörgen Lindström) and her sister Ester (Ingrid Thulin) that is very ill have to stop in a foreign country in Timoka City and checking- in a hotel until Ester recovers from a crisis of her illness. Ester is a translator but she does not speak the language, therefore they need to communicate by gestures with the locals. Ester is cult and controller and Anna is still attractive and very promiscuous. They are emotionally separated and without any sibling's feelings; therefore each sister just speaks to hurt the other while Johan wanders in the empty corridors of the hotel.

"Tystnaden" is a film about lack of connection and communication that in certain moments seems to be a silent movie. There are very few, but sharp and ambiguous, dialogs between the two sisters and it is not clear whether they had an incestuous relationship in the past and the weird way that Anna treats her son, sleeping naked in the bed with him or asking him to soap her back (at least, for non-Swedish viewer). The performances are awesome as usual in a Bergman's film, with wonderful black-and-white cinematography, use of shadows and camera work. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Silêncio" ("The Silence")
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Like the title suggests, it's almost a silent film, and at times a quiet film, but thought provoking
Quinoa19847 August 2005
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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The Child's Perspective
luzgannon12 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
PLOT OUTLINE. Two women and a little boy are travelling through some mysterious foreign country by train. They arrive at a town and check in at a hotel of good standard. They are on their way home for treatment of a severe illness of one of the women, who are sisters. There is some kind of a crisis in the country, but this does not affect the Swedish sisters, who are all engulfed in their personal very troubled relation. Neither is the unknowing little boy disturbed; he walks around all alone, forgotten by his mother and his aunt, who are completely absorbed with themselves. During his wanderings, he meets different people and makes curious observations he does not fully understand, while the two women build up a tension culminating in a tempestuous confrontation.

ANALYSIS. This film allows a rather clearcut definition of a list of thematic elements, the interactions, balances and contrasts of which blend an fuse constituting the film's meaning and errand considered as a singular concept. First and foremost, there is the awe and curiosity of the child discovering the little world around him on his own; the shattering neurotic anxieties of the adult world; the threatening atmosphere of the equally troubled bigger world of society, politics and war; and the ubiquitous, feverish and peculiarly alien influence of a haunting, precariously suppressed sexuality intermittently surfacing in all kinds of chaotic intermezzo.

So, as so often we have to deal with quadruple, even quadratic structure mapping six relations / contrasts / tensions, producing a Field Of Meaning. This is the formal character of the film. The content is for the viewer to work out.

JUDGMENT. Again Ingmar Bergman proves his genius for hitting the mark of a perfect and universal expression of clearly recognizable phenomena. Those dwarfs! That absurd but well-meaning janitor understanding nothing! And big-horrified-eyes Ingrid Thulin, that ultimate She-Monster of a nervous wreck, whose tormenting problems are absolutely unintelligible... It is all, as typically Bergman, just optimal.

Now what does the film want to tell us? Of the four constitutive themes mentioned above, Childhood, Adulthood, Politics and Sexuality, only the first gives a light picture; the three others are all dark and threatening. And this Childhood, as we see it here, is somehow turning the world upside down: the new world confronting is utterly strange and inscrutable; but at the same time friendly and most inviting... while all the well known seems painful and depressing. Thus, the child is centrifugally motivated for productive probing into an Unknown full of Promise.

I think this is the basic message of the film: the Authenticity of Childhood, like Clear Eyes seeing true Reality - before it's all obscured by Sexuality and "Reality"-as-we-know-it setting in.

This is another towering masterpiece of Ingmar Bergman. For it's lucidity of thought, power of expression and formal perfection, there is, for rating, no option but another 10/10.
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The words abandonment, loneliness, longing, neglect, selfishness and miscommunication spring to mind.
wedgwood27 August 2002
Sisters Ester and Anna are vacationing in a strange town with Anna's ten year old son, Johan. The story begins after a change has occured in Anna, her patience with the stifled life she is implied to have led has imploded, leaving all participants lost and empty. Academically overshadowed by her older sister, Anna has reache her limits in being controlled and obsessed over by the domineering Ester. This control has apparently been sexual as well as psychological. The Silence, (which is not so much a story about emotion and interpersonal relationships as it is about the lack thereof), operates a lot through context and circumstances unseen by us, but which are expressed by the conflicting characters. Sickness of body and mind ooze their way into the themes, inescapably dominating them. None of the characters understand each other, or even seem to care about anyone but themselves. In order the distract themselves from the emptiness of their relationships, they each search hopelessly for interest elsewhere. Ester in her bottomless glass of vodka, Johan in the vast hallways of the unchartered hotel, and Anna in the arms of a stranger who's language she cannot understand. The elder sister Ester has a disease of the lungs which is slowly killing her, probably tuberculosis. Her death imminent, she is destined never to return home. A translator, she attempts to communicate with the hotel waiter via. French, German, English and Swedish, none of which the locals understand. One has to wonder why the distanced family has travelled to this orifice of isolation at all. But this is not a film that answers questions, it simply presents a psychological horror story, a breakdown of communication on every human level. Looking out the window Ester watches a ragged, skeletal horse heave an enormous carriage full of furnature up and down the cramped, dusty streets below. While a stopwatch ticks restlessly in the background, the bored Johan searches the corridors for something to do, stopping to urinate against a wall. The ancient waiter shows him a bizarre collection of photo's he has of corpses in coffins. Aside from a dazzling pair of eyes, Anna has very little of interest about her. She is selfish, cold, shallow and desperate for admiration. Disturbing movie. The usual Bergman brilliance.
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Early Bergman still packs a powerful punch
TheLittleSongbird13 November 2012
The Silence is going to be an acquired taste- true of a lot of Ingmar Bergman's films- but if you know what to expect then I think you will be rewarded. I can understand definitely why some may not like The Silence, the plot is light, has moments of (purposeful) obscurity and is quite detached emotionally. But I wouldn't immediately go and "objectively" hate on it because it didn't entertain you, it is clear from the title, the plot summary and also from Bergman's other films that The Silence wasn't going to be that kind of film. Bergman's films are more of the thoughtful and compellingly real kind, and The Silence is exactly that, and of Bergman's early work and overall it is one of the better examples of doing that as well. Quite possibly my favourite of his "religious" trilogy, and all three are wonderful films in their own right. As ever it is superbly directed, and looks incredible with Sven Nykvist's haunting cinematography adding much to the tonal bleakness of the film. Apart from the odd moment where music is played, there is no score here which made the increasingly deafening silence even more effective. The dialogue is thought-provoking and intelligent, and while bleak and obscure the atmosphere in The Silence is largely symbolic and also enigmatic and very powerful. The themes of loneliness and objective desire with a want of emotional warmth and tenderness are thoroughly explored here and does resonate with you. Bergman's films are known for how real the characters are, and The Silence is no exception. Likable, no they aren't, but not all characters have to be to have the realism that the ones seen in Bergman's films do. I can't fault the acting either, Ingrid Thulin is just outstanding in the lead role. Overall, still packs a powerful touch but isn't going to be for everyone. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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The Faith Trilogy
tieman6410 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The first film in director Ingmar Bergman's "faith trilogy" - to be completed several years later with "Winter Light" (1962) and "Silence" (1963) - "Through A Glass Darkly" (1961) stars Harriet Andersson as Karin, a young woman who suffers from a mental illness. This illness resembles schizophrenia, but Bergman cruelly calls it "the disease of faith", a symptom of Karin's theism.

Karin habitually sees visions of God, but her visions are warped to the point of parody. Her God takes the form of a salacious spider, and later a helicopter which ferries her sputtering body to a mental hospital. Supporting the increasingly deranged Karin are three men: Karin's brother, husband and father. These men embody three very different approaches to "spirituality" or "love", each of which is contrasted with Karin's more Christian outlook. The father, for example, is a cynic, depressive and writer, and is increasingly detached from a family he loves only insofar as they provide material for his increasingly morbid novels. The husband, in contrast, is a man of science, but his rationality proves unable to cure his wife. Meanwhile, Karin's brother is a naive, budding play-write, who develops an incestuous, sexual attraction toward her. As with Bergman's other "faith" films, Karin's beliefs are mocked for being hollow and borne of delusions, but shown to be far less horrific than those of the apathetic, post faith characters who surround her.

The film ends with a macabre parody of romantic, spiritual and familial love. Here, Karin's embrace by God is ushered in by incestuous sex with her brother. An angelic helicopter then lifts her, not up into heaven, but toward a psychiatric ward. Afterwards, Karin's father tells his son that the family's love for one another is proof enough of the existence of God. His words are a self defence mechanism, designed to assuage the pain of watching his family disintegrate. The son, so starved of affection and attention, then accepts the father's drivel. By the film's end, Bergman has shown not only how a love of God is often the displacement of the love we should show for one another, but how even the staunchest unbelievers summon "Gods" to bolster their fragility.

Like "Through A Glass Darkly, "Winter Light", the second film in Bergman's trilogy, takes place in a cold, remote part of Sweden. Bergman's tone is austere and chilling throughout, all skies, oceans, rivers, buildings and vistas seemingly bleached and robbed of all depth. Attuned to this suffocating "nothingness" is Tomas Ericsson, a village pastor (named after Bergman's own father, a priest called Erik) who has lost his faith but continues to tend to his dwindling congregation. If Bergman's "faith trilogy" traces a movement away from shaky belief to profound existential abandonment, then "Winter Light" represents the mid-point of this journey: shaky disbelief, God's light wintry, wispy and uncertain.

And so Bergman paints Tomas as a man of, not only uncertainty, but contradictions. Tomas uses his position of "divine authority" to absolve himself of blame when one member of his congregation commits suicide, whilst using his certainty that God doesn't exist, and therefore also absolute morality, as an excuse for his treatment of several woman. But the problem, the film goes on to show, isn't that God does or does not exist, but that he has always been summoned and shunted aside whenever it best suits man.

"Winter Light" ended with two atheists in a church, waiting for God to speak. The silence that greets them becomes the basis of Bergman's "The Silence", arguably the greatest film in his trilogy (and the precursor to his traumatising "Cries and Whispers"). Making heavy use of sound effects and little use of dialogue, the film centres on Anna, Ester and Johan, a young boy. Whether these characters are related (Lovers? Family? Friends?) is never clarified.

It isn't long before Bergman is alluding to off-screen wars (expressionistic shots of tanks and war machines) and the on-screen mortality of his characters (Ester coughs blood; she's dying from Tuberculosis), all forms of human suffering which for centuries have cast doubt on the existence of God. The rest of the film then largely takes place in a hotel, which Johan explores whilst Ester remains ill and bed bound. During his explorations he will stumble across various mundane yet disturbing sights and sounds. Think the fan which is placed at Ester's bedside, ostensibly for her comfort, but with each blade spin being a reminder of helplessness. Meanwhile, the click of Johan's toy pistol echoes shadowy military vehicles, whilst typewriters and clocks sing songs of death, each tick-tock bring one closer to oblivion. There's a certain, sickening "finality" to "The Silence's" "noise".

Most horrific, though, is the disguised contempt these characters have for one another, despite their seemingly unwavering love. Ester despises Anna for her good health, for the carnal pleasures she indulges in, whilst Anna apathetically views Ester as a constant inconvenience. It's a love-hate tug of war which little Johan is being indoctrinated in.

And so more horrific than God's silence is our own silence, our inability to both truly connect with another human being, and to know completely what the other is thinking. Despite Ester and Anna's rituals of human connection, they remain forever apart and forever alone. Ester herself represents the "Mind", a figure of intellect and rationality (linked to Bach, is multilingual etc), while Anna represents the "Body", Bergman stressing her bodily routines (bathes, eats, sex, is facile etc). What the film shows is that Pure Reason eventually withers the body, whilst carnality, unennboled by reason, ultimately leads to similar self destruction. Bergman's cure is the film's final word: "spirit". He closes on a powerful shot of Johan, the boy's future, and dilemma, ours.

8.5/10 – Worth one viewing. The trilogy's cinematography, by Sven Nykvist, suffocates.
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Cosmoeticadotcom20 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The last film of Ingmar Bergman's Spider Trilogy, The Silence (Tystnaden), is not as good as the film which directly preceded it, Winter Light, but is closer to it, in quality, than the trilogy's comparatively weak first film, Through A Glass Darkly. This is because the weak link in Bergman's filmic repertoire is his ability to handle sexuality. Through A Glass Darkly has the most of it, Winter Light is nearly void of it, and The Silence has a bit of it, although not nearly as much as the lurid American trailer for the film would suggest. That trailer, available on the DVD, would have one believe that the two thirtysomething sisters in the film, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) were engaging in explicit lesbian sex, of the variety one might see in a 1990s porno film.

This is not so, and this film, in essence, is substantially different- both in tone and in substance- from the two other films, which lends credence to Bergman's claims that these films never formed a formal trilogy because not only is the spider God imagery almost absent from this film, but almost all references to religion are gone, as well. It seems that there has been a fatuous critical shoehorning of this film to make it part of a de facto trilogy, but one simply cannot support that claim if all three films are viewed in a row. In reality, this film can be seen as the first half of a duplex of films that ends with Persona, and the Spider Trilogy is really a Spider Duplex, too. It's not really about 'the absence of God', as some critics claim, but rather an almost The Twilight Zone-like film dealing with the absurdities and cruelties of life, regardless of a God or not.

Ingrid Thulin, as Ester, is very good as the repressed sister, and Gunnel Lindblom radiates an almost sleazy sex appeal as the horny Anna- which is perhaps the most oft-used name for a Bergman female character, who wishes her sister dead. Seeing the film now, however, it seems laughable to think that this film was Bergman's most controversial to that point, since the sexuality is so tame, even the scene of ester masturbating is really nothing to get excited over (pun intended), even though we see- in an upside down shot of Thulin's magnificently structured facial cheekbones, that Ester is enjoying herself. This eroticism, and the censorship battles over the film upon its release in country after country, made it Bergman's biggest grossing film in his career.

The cinematography in this film is more daring than in the two other film's of the trilogy- both in camera movements, the usage of light and shade- especially in the scene where Anna is forced to watch a man and a woman have sex at the dwarfs' cabaret, and in his use of subjective shots from the points of view of the lead characters, mostly Johan. The musical interludes consist mostly of Bach's music, especially The Goldberg Variations, and are deployed well. Musical taste seems to be the only thing the two sisters can agree on, re-emphasizing the old adage of it being the universal language.

The Silence is the longest of the three Spider Trilogy films, at 95 minutes, but it seems the shortest, for it is the most quickly paced, with the shortest scenes, and is largely shorn of the long monologues its two predecessors have. It does, however, have the most symbolism of the three films, which again undercuts the mistaken critical consensus that Bergman had abandoned such techniques when he started this sequence of films. And the schismatic sisters in this film prefigure the more melodramatic personality sharing of the actress and nurse in Persona, only in a more dramatically believable and realistic way. Anna is free, sexually wild, and her body's none too subtle motions bespeak this while Ester's hair is pulled back, and she looks a typically Bergmanian severe and sexually repressed, as almost all of Thulin's Bergman characters are. This character goes to the extreme of even declaring she hates the fish-like smell of semen, although to compensate for the character's misanthropy, she looks far more sexually appealing in this film than in Winter Light.

Yet, through it all, I could not get the idea that this film was in some way influenced by Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone television series, which was in its heyday when this film was made. It has all the psychological and sociological hallmarks- weirdness in the nonsense language of the foreigners (reminiscent of such Twilight Zone episodes as the one where beautiful people are considered ugly), a child's point of view, tension, deeper issues masquing under the obvious- save for the sexuality and paranormal, that Serling specialized in, and seems far more akin to it than the two other films in the Spider Trilogy. Regardless, it is an excellent film that touches on some quintessential Bergmanian obsessions, and, for doing so, it grabs hard at the human.
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Suggested, implied, incomplete
ferdinand19324 October 2009
It takes time for this to become a drama and when it does its resentment again. Bergman uses confessional hate between people often eg. Winter Light, Autumn Sonata and here as the spur to conflict. It works dramatically, its horrible and its also cathartic.

But the weakness in this film is that its suggested and not fully rendered and consequently The Silence lacks the qualities of the first two in the so-called trilogy. They have a richer meaning in the dialog, in the circumstances, where this sometimes feels like an exercise in making cinema.Observing people wandering about is interesting for only a limited amount of time, another level of insight must be given.

It also shares qualities with the third part of Antonioni's trilogy -- L'Eclisse, which is about people incapable of communicating, leaving silence. L'Eclisse is a much stronger film.

Even so, the lead actors are bewitching, as are the photography and compositions too.
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We go to movies to be entertained...
laetusindei1 May 2009
The Seventh Seal was an absolute masterpiece. After seeing it I thought, "Wow! I've GOT to see more Bergman!" I thought this because The Seventh Seal addressed struggles that are common to all of us; hope, faith & death. Yet at the same time it managed to address these with compelling characters that provided a glimpse both of the beauty of life and of the deep hardship. Seeing Winter Light was then, different. It offered only bleakness, which being new to Bergman I should have been prepared for but I still found the story moving as it showed the extent of this priest's depression.

I see The Silence and what do I get? ... Nothing. I really can't think of anything eventful at all that happens in this movie. Common arguments I hear in favour of this movie is that "you are not supposed to relate to the characters. You're supposed to be shattered by their loneliness and their inability to communicate". Which is fine, just as long as something actually happened. I really cannot think of anything that happens in the movie and severely frustrated I fast-forwarded through the movie reading the subtitles so I could get this over with and not watch another Bergman film again any time soon.

I was initially drawn to Bergman as he was reputedly one of the great artists of cinema and I was fed up with the same commercial rubbish that was being produced year after year. This movie goes too far in the other direction. People may say there is great merit in this movie for the issues it addresses or its daringness to address them at its time of release, but none of that matters if the movie is not entertaining and this just genuinely wasn't.

We go to movies to be entertained.

That's it. That comes first.

Bringing in philosophical themes & broken relationships is fine, great in fact, as long as the movie is still entertaining. That's what The Seventh Seal did. I really don't know why people LOVE this movie so much. I can't understand why I've only read one other review with this sentiment.

However, one of Bergman's quotes was that he couldn't understand why critics loved Citizen Kane so much when he thought it was so "immensely boring". I guess it goes to show how subjective these opinions of movies really are.
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Unique and innovative....and a total bore.
MartinHafer11 December 2016
"The Silence" earns a 3 because it has really nice black & white cinematography and the story is, well, unique. But apart from that, the film is a total bore...even with its sexually explicit interludes.

When the story begins, two women and a boy are traveling by train abroad. One of the women, Esther, gets sick and they spend the rest of their vacation stuck in a hotel room in some fictional European country. However, over the course of the film you learn a few things about the women. One sister is very ill and spends a lot of the film having convulsions and lying in bed. She also seems emotionally constricted and yet longs for sexual you see her masturbating in one scene. The other sister, Anna, is totally unconstricted. She gets bored and leaves her son in the room while she goes out to have anonymous sex on several occasions. It's as if one sister is the ego--filled with guilt. And, the other is pure id--enjoying carnal delights and having no guilt whatsoever. As for the boy, the IMDb summary says he's 13 but he looks about 8 and you learn very little about him...he just is. And, at times, he leaves the room to play, see the porter or hang out with a gang of dwarfs.

So why is this film so popular among Bergman's films? And, why was it the basis of an "SCTV" sketch which made fun of Bergman's films? Well, I've seen nearly all of Bergman's films and must say this one is completely unlike his others. Apart from misery and pain (popular Berman themes), the film is nothing like his others in many ways. The film is, at times, essentially a silent film--with very, very, very long periods in which no one says anything. It also is extremely sexually explicit--with not only casual nudity but folks having intercourse. It's super-explicit for the early 60s but by today's standards would earn the film an R rating. In fact, this explicitness must be the reason that this is such a popular film-- folks back in 1963 could see sex! But to get to the sex scenes, you have to slog through so much boredom and well as the ill woman contemplating her existence.

My recommendation? See Bergman's other films or go rent a porno film. Both would be MUCH more satisfying than seeing this bizarro and very dull film.
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Imagine If A Pack Of Wolves Went To Oxford!!!
dataconflossmoor19 March 2008
This will be the first Bergman film I have commented on!! I feel that Igmar Bergman has established a plethora of paramount accomplishments in the world of the cinema industry!! His brilliance depicts abhorrent human nature which reflects a calculating subjectivity that erupts with callousness and tormented recriminations. These pejorative aspects of behavior are pertinent to the desultory plight of the characters in his films!! A typical Bergman film's portrayal of depression is one whereby it eventually becomes elevated to a new level of hopelessness!! This onslaught of sibilant human discrepancies always unearth a frightful despair in so many of Bergman's productions!! The film, "The Silence" is no exception to the rule!! The term used by a prominent movie critic from the New York Times about this movie, was "ruthless gratification"... This phraseology sums up the culprit to the primary dilemma in this film!!... I can assertively empathize with the fact that these two women are not American; what that means is that their emotional enmity is manifested very differently than "good old fashion Yankee anger". The intercontinental disposition of this film necessitates an urban sophistication which becomes a premise for judgmental injury!! Infidelity, as well as sexual experimentation, are subterfuges for a passionately nurtured loathing... In the United States, Central Park Wext intellectuals deliberately masquerade such infuriating pretenses as a way of flaunting their appropriated prestige with their cavorting intelligentsia!! To the movie audience, the actions of these two women would suggest a very disconcerting demeanor, yet, very much to the contrary, these two characters are consumed by overt resentment and deep rooted hatred!! The first rate felony for the characters in this film was to not be seen in a way they want to be seen. They were impervious to the fact as to whether they protracted any esoteric aspects to their personality in a cogent manner or not!! This was the silver screen's introduction to the nefarious venue of a sex club!! As a matter of fact, when "The Silence" came out in 1963, it was considered the most lewd movie ever made!! Usually when I comment on something being sexually suggestive for it's day, I immediately counter it with "By today's standards, of course, this seems ridiculous" however, in the case of this film, I would have to say that even now, this film is still relatively provocative.. "The Silence" illustrates pictorial nudity, and concepts of debauchery, along with degenerate sexual behavior, which are so ubiquitous, that they suggest an absolute vitiation of moral imperatives!! Bergman does a tremendously dispassionate job of directing this film, as he encompasses sexual wiles into a form of intellectual intimidation.. The acting in this movie is superb... The eccentricities of many side players with "The Silence" articulate a genre of philosophical diversification!! What are these two women really like? My assessment of them is this; Imagine if a pack of wolves went to Oxford!! There should be an unfortunate empathy for the prevailing situation in this movie... In the 1960's, films began to depict people as they really were, and not just stilted characters of exaggerated altruism!! I wish to reiterate that Bergman has always possessed an unprecedented and remarkable quality in directing, so, when "The Silence" was made in 1963, the aggregate double entendre to every critical expression with this flick, was, without question, a perfectly executed breakthrough in cinematic genius!! See this movie, but, make sure the kids are not around!! I give it five stars!!
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If we're not worthy of God, let's make ourselves even more worthless...
ElMaruecan8219 May 2019
Recently, it had occurred to me that the more some people try to reach God, the more it reflects their hatred on human nature, as if bigotry or misanthropy couldn't do without looking down on people. I know there are many real-life examples of sheer altruism displayed in God's name but does Mother Teresa's work amount to something on the scale of fanaticism's death toll.

This opening paragraph isn't much an attack on God but on his believers and the way they unconsciously live God's inaccessibility as a conditioning frustration... or frustrating condition, trying to model the world according to their vision because they're incapable to reach the original modeler. Indeed, how can you figure God? If he's the Creator, then he's whatever is left if you remove his creation. Remember that gag from "The Simpsons" where Kang and Kodos made time go so fast it sucked everything out the picture, planets, galaxies, the cosmos, even God... and then the screen went white.

This is just a gag but in Bergmanian language, it's silence and nothingness, whether the latter is in white or black is a matter of speculation, but both can be seen as two poles of perception, opposite and inaccessible so that you could only visualize semblances of truth in the black-and-white photography served by Sven Nikvyst. The monochrome format is the perfect embodiment of what can be regarded as God's 'indifference' to the pleas of human beings, subject of Bergman's "faith" trilogy, driving his most tormented subjects to craziness or alienation... that's for the common thread. Whether Bergman wanted us to pity or understand his characters is none of his concern, as long as we're not indifferent (an attitude that can only be feigned because only God is truly indifferent), we realize our own vulnerability.

So, in "Through the Glass Darkly", we had a widowed writer estranged to his daughter, whose dementia made her believe she was approached by God and carry some ambiguously incestuous feelings toward her brother. "Winter Sleep" was even darker in the depiction of a priest, also a widower, incapable to reach God and be a soothing voice of reason for people fearing the nuclear apocalypse and questioning the future of humanity. Ironically, the third opus of the trilogy (though I wonder if it was intended that way) is the less loaded but no less enigmatic, carrying the same ingredients such as death, Oedipal incest, carnal fantasies, triangular loves and existential dead-ends. If you hate head-scratchers, "The Silence" isn't for you.

The film's rich in puzzling imagery, groundbreaking shots of nudity and sex, a pivotal moment in Swedish cinema's history that disinhibited every director's impulse since then, and it also indulges to surrealistic moments à la Bunuel. It's not much pretentious as it has the personal resonance of a nightmare. It starts with two sisters suffocating in a train going to some foreign European country, Ingrid Thullin is the older one: Ester, her natural dignity is spoiled by blood coughing, whatever she represents, we gather it's not life. Anna is played by the breathtakingly beautiful Gunnel Lindblom, and the way the camera endlessly lusts on her leaves no doubt that she represents the basic desires. Her son Johan, played by Jörgen Lindström (he was the little boy in "Persona") swings back and forth between what seems to be two opposite mother figures... or two sides of the same persona, one of flesh and one of soul.

The little boy wanders through the film with the innocence that befits his age, until we start to suspect his continuous gazes on his mother's body to be representative of our voyeuristic position. Johan admires his mother because she's got the reassuring voluptuousness of the nurturing body and his aunt, a translator who can help him to understand the country's language, nurtures his intellect. Either he's a bridge between the two women estranged one to another or he's a plot necessity showing that their tragedy isn't on the conflict itself but the hopeless absence of any communication channel... although they speak the same 'language'.

Ironically, communication is never an issue with foreigners: the kid has fun with a bunch of Spanish dwarfs, there's an old hotel steward,played by Håkan Jahnberg, whose body and face language is so expressive that he always finds a way to amuse Johan and comfort Ester; meanwhile Anna has an affair with a waiter. Blaming Ester for being a Holier-than-thou individual, selfish and proud, rejecting her own pleas as if she was playing God herself, jealousy through sex is the only expression of Anna's resentment. God becomes the scapegoat of the tragicomedy, he's inspired that seemingly disdain of the things of life within Ester, and Anna who made herself even more worthless since she's not worthy of Ester, God... or both.

Ester could only have sex alone because she could never stand the smell of 'flesh' the original language between human beings... and ironically is left alone at the end with the kind of uncertain future that doesn't speak much of God's gratitude toward his firmest subjects. Approaching God is shown as a descent into alienation while the "terra ferma" of sensuality makes us feel alive among humans even if it means suffering... So are we suffering when we're close to God or suffering when we try to stay among humans we secretly despise? That Ester is still afraid to die alone is an indication that we need to stay in touch with our own humanity. Still...

Sven Nykvist's cinematography has the strange capability to show people so close and yet so far, lost in long hotel corridors, in the sweaty darkness of sordid rooms or scorching speeding trains... two faces can be separated by darkness or shadows as if each one was immersed in its own dimension. I guess "The Silence" tries to envision the way people our desperate attempts to reach each other as if the impossible communication with God had affected our own interactions.
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Still wondering whether anything actually happened in this film
ChrisBagley4 November 2003
I don't think anything at all happened in this movie. As far as I can tell, it's just a window into the lives of three very boring people. Like several other viewers, I felt simply uncomfortable while watching this--first because it's a disturbing movie, but more importantly because I actually had better things to do with my 95 minutes.
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Silence Is Not Always Golden
evanston_dad25 January 2006
My admiration for Ingmar Bergman wanes in direct proportion to the number of films of his I see. I become more and more convinced that he was a very limited storyteller, and what seems profound in his movies when you're brand new to them and film scholars are telling you how brilliant he is begins to seem feel like parody by the time you've seen the tenth film that feels virtually interchangeable with the nine others.

"The Silence" is the final film in Bergman's faith trilogy, preceded by "Through a Glass Darkly" (the best in the series) and "Winter Light" (which will make you want to jump off a bridge). "The Silence" is about what you'd expect from the title: quiet, brooding, suffocating and disquieting. Like Bergman at his best, it contains beautiful compositions and shows an obvious mastery of the technical side of film-making; but like Bergman at his worst, it may strike you as pretentious, vague and self-conscious. How you react to it may depend greatly on what kind of mood you're in, and how many Bergman movies you've seen. I'm giving it a rating of 7, because in the world of Bergman movies, he's done much worse ("Hour of the Wolf," anyone?) Grade: B
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