The Silence (Tystnaden)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
First viewing/Netflix rental
I’m still wrapping my head around this powerful, depressing film.
The first half of the film contains almost no dialogue. Two sisters, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), and Anna’s young son Johan are on a train. Their destination is never stated but we know from the start that they do not understand the language spoken. Ester is desperately ill and coughing up blood. Anna reacts to her sister’s plight coldly. All she can think about is the heat.
The party arrives and takes up residence in a grand hotel. We see Anna treat her son in a very sexualized way. But she can’t stay in one place for long and soon departs all dressed up for a walk. In fact she leaves without knowing that her son is wandering the corridors of the hotel. He meets up with some midget performers who will reappear throughout the film. They are never mentioned by anybody.
Ester is aided only by an ancient waiter who answers her calls for food and drink. While Anna is away, she hooks up with a bartender. Later she brings him back to the hotel for sex. Both Ester and Johan are all too aware of this. Ester confronts Anna who unleashes her long unspoken hate for her sister.
While all these things are going on, we see, as our characters are looking out the window, a seeming stream of refugees, plenty of soldiers, and eventually a tank on the city streets. None of the characters is concerned in the slightest beyond their own private psychodrama.
Almost the only honest communication in this film occurs between the sisters and people who cannot understand them. I think the message is people fail to communicate and then they die alone. This was not a lesson I particularly wanted to spend an hour and a half learning. The film is undeniably beautiful though with outstanding cinematography by Sven Nyquist. Warning: The sex here is remarkably explicit for the time and there are plenty of bare breasts on view.
U.S. trailer – I totally missed the lesbian love part – perhaps because it wasn’t there