Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Silence (1963, Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)

I don't think I've quite connected with the Bergman films I've seen so far, besides Persona, which is one of the most devastating and accomplished films I can think of. That said, I have only seen the more minor works, rather than the more renowned ones like Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal.

The Silence is part of the chamber piece trilogy, which included Through A Glass Darkly and Winter Light, which deal with the silence of God. The Silence charts the relationship between two sisters; Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna (Gunddel Lindblom), partly observed through the eyes of Anna's son Johan (Jorgen Lindstrom), whilst set in an unknown country, presumed to be in Eastern Europe on the brink of war. Ester is dying, whilst Anna neglects her sister and her son to pick up strangers. As in the later Cries and Whispers, family is an institution built on mutual obligations which cause resentment, lack of communcation and harmony, and mistrust. Anna and Ester have been considered as two parts of one person; reflecting the physical vs the spiritual and the body vs the soul. These themes would be explored again in Persona as well.

Taboo breaking at the time for scenes of masturbation and intercourse, let alone allusions to incest (the son scrubbing his mother's back in the bath, watching his mother having sex with a stranger), complete with excellent cinematography as always by Sven Nykvist, The Silence is a masterfully made film about the lack of understanding and compassion and disconnection, which ironically I found tough to connect with. Having seen the themes from this film used in Bergman's later masterpieces, it doesn't quite have the impact it might have done had I seen this first. 3.5/5

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