Close Up

6 December 2018: The Silence


The Silence
Ingmar Bergman
1963 | 95 min | B/W | Digital
Swedish and Latin with English subtitles

“Words in a foreign language,” the dictum that graces the final moments of The Silence, is in some ways the emblematic slogan of Bergman’s oeuvre. Ambiguously scrawled on a notepad in one character’s attempt to impart a message to another, it’s the haunting capper on a film that crystallizes one of Bergman’s foundational concerns: the impossibility for two people to ever truly connect with one another. The third in his Faith Trilogy, The Silence is an enigmatic tone poem that explores variations on this theme, following Ester and her young son Johan to a remote, war-torn Central European town whose local dialect is not comprehended by the characters and is left unsubtitled for the viewer. An old, nearly vacant hotel – evidently an influence on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – plays host to the meandering non sequiturs that comprise the film’s plotless sequence of events, which involve Anna’s tortured inability to connect with her sister Anna and Johan’s nightmarish solo adventures. Hostility, loneliness, pain and indifference are all minor gradations of an enveloping bleakness here, and Bergman sustains the mood with a bouquet of mesmerizing chiaroscuro images, each an arcane clue in an overarching cinematic riddle.” – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Ingmar Bergman