Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Silence (1963 film)

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Tystnaden (The Silence) is the story of two different sisters who travel together with the young son of one of the sisters as they deal with their own tense relationship as their country is on the brink of war. The third and final part of Bergman’s trilogy on faith, the film is an exploration about two different women who challenge each other with their ideas on life as well as daring questions on faith and sexuality. Starring Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Birger Malmsteen, Hakan Jahnberg, and Jorgen Lindstrom. Tystnaden is a chilling yet enthralling film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in a fictional European country where war is about to emerge, the film explores a day in the life of two sisters who are traveling on a train with the young son of one of the women as they would spend most of the day in a hotel at an unnamed town. It’s a film that explores not just this troubled relationship between these two very different sisters but also in the young boy who finds himself caught in the middle. For the eldest Ester (Ingrid Thulin), she is this intellectual translator who has fallen ill as she spends part of the day bed-ridden while medicating herself with vodka and cigarettes. For her younger sister Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), she is a woman who uses her sensuality to get by as she takes her young son Johan (Jorgen Lindstrom) on the trip where they would live with relatives in this state of war. Ester and Anna are two women in very different paths as Anna is young enough to meet with people and have her way in a sexual way while Ester is often alone where she usually spends her time working and dealing with her illness.

Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay doesn’t go into any kind of conventional ideas of storytelling nor does it play into any traditional plot schematics. Instead, he strips everything down to the barest essentials as he wants to focus on this growing estrangement between two sisters as Anna is reluctant to care for Ester as she would often go into spasms and other aspects of her illness. While Johan would explore parts of the hotel where he would encounter a group of performing midgets and a very kind night porter (Hakan Jahnberg), he is reluctant to watch over his aunt yet eventually manages to be a source of comfort for her. Anna would go into her own journey where she would meet a bartender (Birger Malmsteen) whom she would later sleep with. During her journey, she would deal with a world that she is entranced by but is also a bit repulsed as it serves as a reflection of sorts of who she is. Though the theme of faith is only told minimally, it does become very prevalent in its third act as it relates to Ester’s struggles with her illness.

Bergman’s direction is quite intoxicating in the way he presents this very intimate and minimalist drama where much of it is set in this hotel. The direction has Bergman going for some very stylish yet evocative compositions in the way he would put his actors into a frame or how would have something happen in the background though the story is being told in the foreground. Still, Bergman is about telling the story where he would also find ways to be provocative but not overtly in the way he approaches sexuality. Whereas Anna uses sexuality to get what she wants, Ester is someone who is tempted by it as it would create this schism between the two sisters as it’s one of many things they would clash about. Especially as Anna has managed to use her words and sensuality to power over Ester who uses her intellect to try and reason with Anna. Ester would eventually realizes that it may not work as she tries to connect with her no matter how cold Anna could be.

The direction also has Bergman use some low-angle and slanted angles to play into some of the film’s emotional aspects of the film while some of the sexual content is quite intense as it would play to Anna’s own sense of passion but also the conflict within herself. Things do intensify in the third act as it relates to Ester’s desire to connect with Anna but there’s a lot of things that complicates everything where faith starts to come into play as Ester tries to deal with her illness and the concept of death. Especially as she would reach out to Johan whom she had started to connect with as he begins to question the actions of his own mother. Overall, Bergman crafts a very engaging yet harrowing film about humanity and faith.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into some of the film‘s eerie tone with its entrancing lighting schemes for some of its interiors along with its use of shadows to play into its sense of despair. Editor Ulla Ryghe does excellent work with the editing with its very methodical yet low-key approach to editing as it avoids conventional cutting styles in order to play into the film‘s emotional tone. Production designer P.A. Lundgren does superb work with the film‘s set design from the look of the hotel hallways as well as the room that Ester, Anna, and Johan would stay in. Costume designer Marik Vos-Lundh does nice work with the costumes it showcases the two different world of the sisters from the more sensual look of Anna to the more prim look of Ester.

The makeup work of Borje Lundh is terrific for some of the look that Anna would wear as she goes out. The sound work of Stig Flodin, Bo Leveren, and Tage Sjoborg is amazing for the atmosphere it creates in the hotel rooms and hotel halls as well as some of the moments in the theater including the sex act that Anna would see. The film’s music consists of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Mersey, and Ivan Renliden as it is played on location to play into the world that Ester wants to be in as she is desperate to connect with someone.

The film’s fantastic cast includes notable small roles Birger Malmsteen as a bartender that Anna hooks up with and Hakan Jahnberg as a kind waiter who is the one person that Ester and Johan seem to be comfortable with. Jorgen Lindstrom is incredible as the boy Johan who tries to deal with his mother’s neglect as well as watching over his aunt Ester as he starts to get to know her. Gunnel Lindblom is amazing as Johan’s mother Anna who is reluctant to accompany her sister as well as she is eager to live her life yet finds herself compromised by her identity and age in a world that is changing as she tries to hold on to her youth. Finally, there’s Ingrid Thulin in a phenomenal performance as Ester as this woman of great intelligence tries to deal with her illness and the growing estrangement she has with Anna as well as the flaws of humanity in her search for answers about God and if he ever listens.

Tystnaden is an outstanding film from Ingmar Bergman. Filled with great performances from its cast as well as Sven Nykvist’s entrancing photography and captivating themes on faith and humanity. The film isn’t just one of Bergman’s quintessential films but also a fitting end to his trilogy of faith in the way it explores people trying to find answers at their most desperate. In the end, Tystnaden is a rich yet spectacular film from Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - Secrets of Women - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams (1955 film) - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) - Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Magician - The Virgin Spring - The Devil’s Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - All These Women - Persona - (Simulantia-Daniel) - Hour of the Wolf - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - The Passion of Anna - (The Touch) - Cries & Whispers - Scenes From a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) - Autumn Sonata - From the Life of the Marionettes - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (Karin’s Face) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) - Saraband

© thevoid99 2014


Alex Withrow said...

Great review of one of my favorite Bergman films. I agree, this film is so amazing in the way it shows people at their most desperate. You can just feel Ester's pain.

thevoid99 said...

Right now, I think that is the best film of the trilogy and certainly one of the most terrifying as I felt Ester's pain from the start.