Monday, November 8, 2010

#211: The Silence

(Ingmar Bergman, 1963)

The final film in Bergman's Trilogy of Faith is almost completely devoid of God. It feels freeing for Bergman, and features by far the most optimistic ending of the trilogy, despite the fact that the rest of the film is just as dark as the other two installments. The final shot of Johan leaves the film looking towards the future. The boy has been freed from the sensual spiritual grasp of his mother and reaching out to his intellectual aunt for an emotional connection, curious about the world and open to its ideas, even when war surrounds him and uncertainty is in the air.

Obviously the hotel in this film reminded me of Last Year at Marienbad (and by extension The Shining) even before Peter Cowie brought it up in the supplement. There aren't many similarities between the films, but they both feel like death surrounds them. The hallways that Johan explores feel more like waking dream than concrete reality. We know the dwarfs are real, yet we can't help wonder where they came from or why they are there, just as we do with the main characters. We know nothing of the war which rages outside - but then again how much do we know of the war within the hotel? The sisters despise each other, but why? They obviously serve as two sides of one person, but did anyone else get a weird incest vibe from them here?

The Silence didn't grab me 100% the way the previous two films in the series did, but it's still a memorable and moving film. Both performances by the lead women match the caliber to which any viewer of Bergman's work would be accustomed, and Nykvist again throws down, with swooping shots through the hotel hallways and dusty, ravenous moments interspersed throughout. I think further viewings of the trilogy might give me a stronger opinion of this final chapter, but these certainly aren't movies you should rewatch immediately, but instead absorb and then revisit.

One of the more interesting facts Cowie relays in the supplement is that The Silence is the Bergman film that had the highest attendance numbers. This is depressing but kind of funny, not because The Silence is not an excellent movie but because this interest so obviously stemmed from the sexual content of the film, which is almost entirely devoid of eroticism (with the possible exception of the scene in the theater, depending on whether or not that sort of thing is your bag). The idea of going to a Bergman film to get off reminds me how silly people can be about sex, especially when they are prevented from being exposed to it.

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