208-212 A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

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colinr0380
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208-212 A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

#1 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Nov 27, 2004 4:28 pm

A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

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In 1960, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman began work on three of his most powerful and representative films, eventually recognized as a trilogy. Already a figure of international acclaim for such masterpieces as The Seventh Seal and The Magician, Bergman turned his back on the expressionism of his fifties work to focus on a series of chamber dramas exploring belief and alienation in the modern age. Collaborating with the distinguished cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and eliciting searing performances from his refined cast of regulars—Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Gunnel Lindblom, Ingrid Thulin, and Max von Sydow among them—Bergman unleashed Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence in rapid succession, exposing moviegoers worldwide to a new level of intellectual and emotional intensity. Drawing on Bergman's own upbringing and ongoing spiritual crises, the films of the trilogy examine the necessity of religion and question the promise of faith.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• On the DVD: High-definition digital transfers of all three films
• On the Blu-ray: New 2K digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
• Introductions to the films by director Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003 (Blu-ray only)
• Observations on each film by film scholar Peter Cowie, recorded in 2003
Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie, a five-part documentary by Vilgot Sjöman made for Swedish television during the production of Winter Light
• Interview from 2012 with actor Harriet Andersson (Blu-ray only)
• Audio interview from 1962 with actor Gunnar Björnstrand (Blu-ray only)
• Illustrated audio interview with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, recorded in 1981 (Blu-ray only)
• Poster gallery
• Original U.S. theatrical trailers
• Alternate English-dubbed soundtracks
• On the DVD: Essays by film scholars Peter Matthews, Peter Cowie, and Leo Braudy, plus a statement from director Vilgot Sjöman
• On the Blu-ray: An essay by film scholar Catherine Wheatley and an excerpt from Bergman's 1987 autobiography, The Magic Lantern

Through a Glass Darkly

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While vacationing on a remote island retreat, a family's fragile ties are tested when daughter Karin (an astonishing Harriet Andersson) discovers her father (Gunnar Björnstrand) has been using her schizophrenia for his own literary ends. As she drifts in and out of lucidity, Karin's father, her husband (Max von Sydow), and her younger brother (Lars Passgård) are unable to prevent her descent into the abyss of mental illness. Winner of the Academy Award for best foreign-language film, Through a Glass Darkly, the first work in Ingmar Bergman's trilogy on faith and its loss (to be followed by Winter Light and The Silence), presents an unflinching vision of a family's near disintegration and a tortured psyche further taunted by the intangibility of God's presence.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New high-definition digital transfer (DVD only)
• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack (Blu-ray only)
• Observations on the film by film scholar Peter Cowie, recorded in 2003
• New essay by film scholar Peter Matthews (DVD only)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Alternate English-dubbed soundtrack

Winter Light

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"God, why hast thou forsaken me?" With Winter Light, Ingmar Bergman explores the search for redemption in a meaningless existence. Small-town pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand) performs his duties mechanically before a dwindling congregation, including his stubbornly devoted lover, Märta (Ingrid Thulin). When he is asked to assuage a troubled parishioner's (Max von Sydow) debilitating fear of nuclear annihilation, Tomas is terrified to find that he can provide nothing but his own doubt. The beautifully photographed Winter Light is an unsettling look at the human craving for personal validation in a world seemingly abandoned by God.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• High-definition digital transfer (DVD only)
• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks (Blu-ray only)
• Observations on the film by film scholar Peter Cowie, recorded in 2003
• Essay by Peter Cowie (DVD only)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Alternate English-dubbed soundtrack

The Silence

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Two sisters—the sickly, intellectual Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and the sensual, pragmatic Anna (Gunnel Lindblom)—travel by train with Anna's young son, Johan (Jörgen Lindström), to a foreign country that appears to be on the brink of war. Attempting to cope with their alien surroundings, each sister is left to her own vices while they vie for Johan's affection, and in so doing sabotage what little remains of their relationship. Regarded as one of the most sexually provocative films of its day, Ingmar Bergman's The Silence offers a disturbing vision of emotional isolation in a suffocating spiritual void.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• High-definition digital transfer (DVD only)
• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack (Blu-ray only)
• Observations on the film by film scholar Peter Cowie, recorded in 2003
• Poster gallery
• Essay by film scholar Leo Braudy (DVD only)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Alternate English-dubbed soundtrack
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Oct 06, 2006 7:37 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Lino
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#2 Post by Lino » Sun Nov 28, 2004 7:49 am

colinr0380 wrote:Sorry I've not been on for a while, have been having problems with the forum which mean that I can't get onto the system from my work computer for some reason, so I'll post from my home one. Unfortunately this makes it a bit difficult to be spontaneous so sorry if I don't reply very quickly to any responses! (EDIT: Computer ok now!)

I thought I'd start by reposting some of the posts I'd kept on my computer, starting with:

I think the Film Trilogy set is excellent, but there was one television programme which really helped me to understand Through A Glass Darkly. I'd have liked either this or something like it on the disc, but will post a transcript of this episode below. From reading the other comments above, people have already touched on the feeling of finding the final reconciliation between father and son a kind of anticlimax and the programme touches on this issue.

It was a Fulmar TV Production for Channel 4 in 1992 and was directed by Gary Johnstone.

Reel Secrets by Robert McKee

Robert McKee: I saw my first Bergman film in Detroit, Michigan when I was 15. It was The Virgin Spring, a tale of revenge for rape and murder. Next came a comedy, Smiles of a Summer Night. After that Brink of Life, a social drama set in a maternity ward, Monika: A Teenage Love Story, Hour of the Wolf, a psycho-horror film. Bergman was like a one-man film studio bringing a fresh eye to many genres and by word of mouth filling cinemas everywhere. But then in the sixties he became a creature of the critics. They treated his films as intellectual crossword puzzles and drove the audience back behind a barricade of critic-speak - symbology, metaphysics, alienation - until it was impossible to watch a Bergman film without the feeling that you were taking an exam. And that's where he stands today, on a pedestal, intimidating, distant, watched only by a tiny circle of cineastes. I think that over the years we forgot what the early audiences instinctively knew - above all else, Ingmar Bergman was a master storyteller.

Bergman's difficult. Not to understand, but emotionally tough. He shines light into the darkest corners of life. He asks us to empathise with complex characters who, although very human, are not particularly loveable. Then he spins his stories over an emotional rollercoaster, taking us on a quest for the truth, truth that explodes the little lies that make life comfortable. To watch a Bergman film you have to be willing to invest all your humanity, to open yourself up, to care about life so much you want to know the truth though heaven may fall. It is not intellect Bergman demands so much as courage.

Bergman's also difficult because he explains nothing. He doesn't force his ideas into the mouths of his characters. Like Hollywood he tells stories visually, writes naturalistic dialogue and layers his meaning in the subtext. Unlike Hollywood his films are not tales of wish fulfilment, telling seductive lies about how everything works out for the best.

1a: The Film

"for now we see through a glass, darkly:
but then face to face; now I know in part;
but then I shall know even as also I am known"
I Corinthians 13.12

RMK: In 1961 Bergman made a very personal film he called Through A Glass Darly. When finished however it somehow embarrassed him. He was very reluctant to talk about it. Prior to Through A Glass Darkly Bergman went through a crisis of faith. His father was a Lutheran minister, his mother an extremely pious woman and he was raised in a repressive home. Then as he reached middle age he realised he did not believe in God.

Professor Inga-Stina Ewbank, Leeds University: He was putting four people on an island and putting them on a couch as it were. I think he was trying to use these four people to work out some of his own problems with his faith. I do think it is very much a film of an autobiographical nature in that he is struggling to find reasons to believe and showing how difficult it is to believe.

RMK: For many thoughtful people the idea of a protective, all knowing God is a false hope, illusionary. And so they grapple with this question. How can one live in a world in which values are so appallingly subjective, a world that contains no religious or ethical certainty, a world where relativity has spread from physics to morality? When Bergman felt the bottom drop out he asked "if God doesn't exist, on what do you base your life?" His answer was love, the human capacity to love. And so he set out to make a film that says love is a substitute for God.

Ib: The Story

RMK: Until I saw Through A Glass Darkly I thought that for a film to go to the end of the line, to reach the limits of human experience it had to go 'out there', into the world surrounding the characters. With this film I discovered you don't have to go 'out there' if you know how to go 'down here'. Bergman invented a family spending a holiday at a cottage on a Baltic island. The story of Karin, her father, her brother, her husband. When we meet the family they seem affectionate, cheerful but we quickly see they are in crisis. The father's a novelist - this man is so repressed he cannot live life, rather he cannibalises it for his art. In fact he is secretly studying his schizophrenic daughter for material for a novel. All the while this tormented woman craves understanding and acceptance yet finds herself with a patronising husband who treats her like a child while pestering her for sex. As she clings to her sanity by her fingernails she is surrounded by weak, troubled men who turn to her for support. But her sanity gives way to hallucinations and she becomes convinced that God will appear to her from behind an attic wall. Humiliated by her husband, she seeks help from her brother, telling him of the miracle she waits for in the attic room. He tries to help but he is so driven by his adolescent sexuality that when in her madness she reaches out to him, they fall into incest. When the father discovers what happened he feels crushed - by self pity. Karin feels sorry for him, and knowing that his only interest in her is for her insanity, gives him that gift. She kneels on the attic floor in prayer and as her father watches goes through living hell when God appears as a grotesque spider with a snarling human face that crawls up her leg and tries to enter her. After this family's been ripped inside out father and son come face to face and finally manage to bridge the great distance between them. The father comforts his son with an idea: although God may not exist, the love they have for each other gives their lives meaning.

II : Crafts

RMK: Depth I think is a word we sometimes use too easily when we talk about deep meaning, deep character, but with Bergman I don't know any other. Through A Glass Darkly has haunted me for years and made me ask how does he do it? How does he take us on this plunge to rock bottom?

IIa: Exposition

RMK: To begin with after more than two dozen films Bergman had accumulated an extraordinary level of screenwriting craft. He could for example make his exposition invisible. As we watch the film we absorb a great density of biographical information but we are never aware of it. We land in a story that unfolds rapidly and yet indirectly, invisibly, we learn. And the key to this is that Bergman converts his exposition to ammunition. His characters of course know themselves, they know their world, their history, so he lets them use what they know as ammunition in their struggle to get what they want. For example, when the son-in-law Mark competes with David the father for control of Karin's life Martin says he sent a letter to David in Switzerland. Martin stings David and wins a point in their struggle but indirectly we just learned that David's an artist so obsessed with his work that others are afraid to bother him even with news of his daughter's mental illness.

Later (on the shipwreck) David begs Karin for forgiveness. We learn how he lost his wife and get a deep insight into the guilt and essential weakness of the man. What's even more amazing with Bergman is how little facts he gives us in relationship to our deepening comprehension. All we actually know about their histories is the professions of the men, the hospitalisation of the daughter, the boarding school for the son, the death of the mother, little else. But these few facts are carefully selected so that we feel that we know everything. This is what I mean by "treats us like adults". Bergman knows that an intelligent audience can take an implication and fill in the gaps.

ISE: One thing that doesn't necessarily come over in the subtitles I think is an extraordinary sense for a kind of slightly ritualised language and listening to it without reading the subtitles you do realise how he doesn�t have a Shakespearean verbal imagination but he does have an imagination for cutting down the language again and making it sound as if you can hear the reverberations all the time behind it of that I Corinthians 13 where the title comes from - it's that kind of simple language.

IIb: Angles and Edits

RMK: Bergman also knows how to stage a scene, he's directed as much theatre as film. Then as a filmmaker he brings the camera to the staged work, composing, shooting and editing shots that express the inner life. When David and Martin talk on the boat they are openly hostile, arguing about who loves Karin the most, but in the end they reach an understanding. Bergman starts the scene with them at opposite ends of the boat shot in singles, then he brings them together into a two shot but never face to face. Then he ends with David touching Martin's arm. The surface of the scene portrays a rational communication that brings about trust but the angles and the editing make us feel that these sympathies are very tentative and shallow. In the next scene brother and sister are in fierce conflict and confusion. Karin takes Minus to the attic and shares her secret of the whispering voices and the coming of God. Poor Minus is lost and can't grasp what she means and yet Bergman shoots them in tight two shots so that we feel that although they don't rationally understand each other, emotionally they are in deep communication. Bergman's camera isn't there simply to record what is said and done but to take us into the inner life of what is thought and said.

IIc: Using coincidence

Bergman's films create tight knit universes in which there are no accidents. Looking back on that scene in the boat, David tells a story about a recent suicide attempt in Switzerland in which he was saved when his car by coincidence stalled with its two front wheels hanging over a cliff. Out of this experience he says he was reborn with a new love for his family. The style of dialogue is in sharp contrast with the rest of the film, it sounds like a bad novel, making us suspect that David has just concocted an outrageous lie, but that's Bergman's only clue and now we have to go to work. Why would David lie about such a thing? Perhaps he fantasised about suicide and thinks that makes him a deep feeling, interesting man. Confessing this private pain makes him sincere even if it never happened. One complex twist of thought after another that leads us into the depths of this hollow man's self obsession. Later Bergman does something even more fascinating with coincidence. When Karin is on her knees praying she says the door will open and God will appear. In the corner of the room is a closed, empty closet. The moment is electric with emotion. Suddenly the closet door of its own accord slowly swings open. Karin explodes in a frenzy of terror as if something was attacking her. Now the miracles arrives at the very moment Karin needs it - how? Their cottage is on an island so the ambulance is a helicopter and it descends, thunderingly loud, casting a spider-like shadow on the wall. If we thought about it I guess we'd say it was the vibrations of the helicopter that swung open the close door, but that's just an explanation. It's still pure coincidence that just when Karin was praying for a miracle, helicopter and door joined forces to give it to her. In the hands of another filmmaker that twist would be jeered at as a deus ex machina, a favourite device of hack writers, the use of coincidence to get ending. But Bergman pulls it off. Starting with the whisperings from behind the wall, Karin's acute sensitivity to nature, her deep belief in and need for a miracle - Bergman has urged us to hope for a supernatural happening. Her passion is at such a fever pitch that it becomes a synchronistic event - meaningful coincidence around a centre of tremendous emotion. He takes us to the underside of reality and give us a sense of the meaningfulness of absurdity.

IId: Imagery

RMK: For Through A Glass Darkly he designed an image system which I think is magnificent, a design to poetically express opposing worlds. Compare these two scenes: David and Martin on their boat have a cool, rational discussion under a bright sky in which they lie and evade the truth but manage to touch each other with understanding. Then a storm drives Karin and Minus into the dark belly of a shipwreck where they meet in mad, animal passion, then silence. After the incest, Minus waits with Karin but his thoughts are worlds away. When David arrives to talk to Karin, Bergman moves them back into the light under the hatch. So in the storylines involving tragic experiences the image systems are darkness, nature and the supernatural, closed faces, sexuality and isolation. In the positive plotlines the scenes are dominated by light, intellect, open spaces, verbal communication and togetherness.

IIe: Structure and pattern

RMK: Bergman called this a chamber film and the structure is very like chamber music in which a few instruments state a theme then break off into duets, solos, back to ensemble. In Bergman's treatment however the orchestration of the ensemble scenes is one of slow disintegration. He opens the film with a four shot and laughter, then goes off into duets and solos to create the various plotlines but each time he tries to bring back a family scene we see it falling to pieces. The father's betrayal breaks the group, Minus runs off, Karin escapes into madness. Now when we pull back and survey the grand design of this film, we see six plotlines that begin, progress and climax:

- Karin rejects her insensitive husband
- Commits incest with her brother
- Suffers the rape of the spider God
- David reconciles first with his son-in-law
- then daughter
- then son

The three Karin stories end negatively and the three David stories positively, but the Karin and David climaxes alternate in this order: Karin, David - negative, positive, negative, positive, negative, positive. It's a design conceived to use story structure as rhetoric so it argues the point. Not this, but this; not darkness but light; not animality but intellect; not isolation but community; not sexuality but communication; not selfishness but love.

III: Meaning

RMK: And yet after experiencing the flowing force of this film I ask myself: do I believe it? Does the design of a negative climax always followed by a positive really convince me that love can quell the dark forces of human nature, that love will substitute for God? Is the overall feeling of this film positive? I think not. I think on balance this film leaves us with a sense of bitter irony, where the quest for absolute ideals leads to tragedy, and my reasons for feeling this are simple: Bergman gives three times as much screen time to his negative ending stories as the positive. His imagery surrounding the positive stories is pleasant but the imagery expressing the negative is far, far more powerful. The negative stories turn on actions - hallucinatory rape, incest, sexual rejection. The positive stories turn on internalised experiences expressed in talk. The external actions seem deep and true because they bring terrible consequences. All that is positive is dry, cerebral, tainted with self deception, white lies and ultimately swept aside by the passion, pain and honesty of the negative.

Michael Tanner, Philosopher: It does seem to me to be gruelling, really gruelling, but one has the fascination of seeing very serious issues debated among character organised by somebody with an extraordinarily acute feeling and intelligence. It's done in a way that seem to me exemplary, especially for us now when we have to have a kind of smirk on our faces before we can say anything serious.

RMK: What the male characters have done through their actions and neglect is destroy Karin, the only selfless, loving person in the film. They can say she is surrounded by love but she's the one going back to the asylum and the electric shock treatments. If in the final scene between David and Minus the father had said "I'm cancelling my trip to Yugoslavia and staying here with you, son", if David could find it in his heart to take action on his beliefs and sacrifice something he wants for his child then maybe I'd be convinced. But Bergman's too honest - he knows that men like David can give advice but never take action, he knows that most people will not sacrifice their little trips to Yugoslavia even if their children just went through the most horrific experience imaginable.

Professor Inga-Stina Ewbank: I think what Bergman has given us, if you like, is a twofold ending, sending us away weighing against each other the dark ending of the girl descending forever into her incurable illness on the one hand, God having proved to be a spider; and on the other hand a ray of hope that comes from the kind of humanism of father and son. The father telling his son that God is love, the son discovering the miracle that his father has actually spoken to him "Papa talked!". I think that the second, the upbeat, can easily seem somewhat sentimental but I do think that there is enough pressure and sincerity behind it for us to take it seriously, but I do not think that it can predominate at least with the two of them together.

RMK: And so I take no comfort from the film, but it does inspire me in this sense: although God may not exist and love will not substitute for Him there is one idea expressed here and that is the truth, or better the pursuit of the truth. What I see is a great artist drawn to find the truth and coming to realise that truth is far more that intellectual invention. Truth is not merely in the head, but in the heart. Ultimately, Bergman listened to his instincts, his innate sense of honesty and let that guide the work. The result is a film so rich in irony, so complex yet clear that out of the gloom and darkness something shines like a diamond: the beautiful struggle between intellect and integrity. He's a brilliant man who went through a shattering emotional experience and decided to base a film on that. He set out to prove what he desperately wanted to believe and carefully designed this film as a rhetorical argument in dramatic form to make his point. But then his instincts, his integrity, his sense of truth overwhelmed his intellectual ambitions and somehow all the scenes that say the opposite of what he believed overwhelmed the other and as a result the film says that rather than love showing the way to happiness, the more likely fate is that you will end up alone, desperate, blinded with self deception. That intellectualising about love, all this talk about love is pitifully meek in the face of the great destructive forces that inhabit human nature.
Thank you, colin for reposting this. I had a wonderful reading when you first posted it and was feeling kind of sorry that it got lost when the previous forum crashed. Not anymore, though!

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#3 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Nov 30, 2004 9:28 am

I've been thinking some more about the film in relation to the Robert McKee article posted earlier and I've had a couple more ideas about Through A Glass Darkly:
RobertMcKee wrote:Karin feels sorry for him, and knowing that his only interest in her is for her insanity, gives him that gift.

I was thinking that extrapolating from this comment perhaps Karin also gives Martin the chance of a new life, as suggested by her line to him after rejecting him "Imagine having a stable wife who gave you children and coffee in bed, who was big and soft and warm and beautiful". She feels bad for her rejection of her husband and probably realises that while she is living between two worlds, slipping between sanity and insanity, she can never have a full relationship with her husband, or let Martin feel able to leave her behind and move on wih his life. When she says in the shipwreck "I can't live in two worlds. I have to choose" I'd say it is as much for the men in her life as for herself, continuing the idea that McKee says about Karin as the only selfless person in the film. In the same way I think she does the same thing for Minus - she sees his attraction to her and in her insanity the societal barriers break down and she may commit incest to, in a sense, allow Minus to get over his obsession with her and have relationships with other women. To show him that he should not find women disgusting and something to only make him feel nervous. Karin seems at this point to me to have a similar psychology perhaps to the way Anais in Fat Girl feels that her virginity is something to 'get past' to move on in her sexual life. In a way Karin performs the function for Minus that the rapist does for Anais in that film, and in her insanity performs this act which will probably have serious emotional consequences for both herself and Minus.

These acts are perhaps her way of saying goodbye to the sane world once she realises her illness is incurable. She gives each of the men a gift of a continued existence without her (or with her as insane, which might be more emotionally easier for them than someone slipping between lucidity and insanity), and this perhaps allows the hope for the future for them, despite Karin's tragic end. The beautiful literalisation of the title comes after Karin says she has seen God and He is a spider, and leaves the house to take the ambulance to the hospital. She puts on a pair of sunglasses, and so now literally sees 'though a glass darkly', externalising the change in her mental state and attitude to the world (and it was very interesting to see the literal dark mirrors in the Bergman introduction to Through A Glass Darkly on the Fanny & Alexander disc).

The ambulance, associated with the spider God in the attic room carries her away, and so lends a kind of sinister edge to Minus' line to his father that Karin is now "surrounded by God, since we love her", perhaps suggesting love, like religion, can sometimes be one of the destructive human characteristics because of how it binds people together. It can make them commit terrible acts (such as the incest) or great kindnesses (Karin's sacrifices) depending on how people wield it with thought for how others will be affected by their actions or alternatively thoughtlessness. I agree with Robert McKee that when Minus and David are together at the end of the film it is very downbeat and the words about love do seem small in the face of all that has happened. There is some hope in the conversation as David seems to realise Minus is in the same mental turmoil as Karin when he speaks in a similar way to her, "Reality burst open. It's like a dream. Anything can happen", and when he says "I can't live in this new world", it perhaps brings to mind Karins' saying she cannot live in two worlds, therefore suggesting Minus may be in a similar mental danger. David's fast "Yes, you can, but you need something to hold on to" and subsequent speech about love is perhaps meant to pull his son (and himself) back from the same precipice they have just seen Karin go over, but as Robert McKee says, they need to do more than talk their problems through and take action, though what that would be I'm not sure! So the ending is left ambiguous but the "Papa talked to me" suggests at least some breakthrough has occurred, and maybe the family can move forward.

Sorry if the above is a bit rambling. It's given me quite a headache trying to express all my thoughts about this bleak but amazing film in words, but its definitely been worth it! Hope you like them!

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#4 Post by Lino » Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:29 pm

Ok, so yesterday evening I popped The Silence into my player and surprisingly I enjoyed it much more than on previous viewings. Here's why: as I was watching it, I began to take notice that this particular film and Persona have much more in common than it first appears. In fact, it's amazing that they were not done back to back (Bergman did the whimsical comedy All This Women in between them) as they feel to me to be born from the same states of mind or wombs, as I will further explain.

- At the beginning of the film we see that our 3 characters - 2 sisters and a son/nephew - are taking a journey on a train into some unknown land. It is my opinion that they are taking a metaphoric and metaphisical journey into a no-man's land located inside Bergman's own soul.

- Since the three films of the trilogy are about God, its existence/non-existence and thus faith/lack of faith/losing of religion, it is only apropriate that this third entry contains a lot of silence in it (in fact, the film was to have been called God's Silence). Apropriate, because now Bergman has noone to voice his anger to and so the only person/entity he has to deal with now is himself. And therefore, the film plays like an interior monologue/dialogue where no words are required.

- I found that the 2 sisters (played brilliantly by Gunnel Lindblom and Ingrid Thulin) are actually 2 halves of the same self - Bergman himself. In fact, this is quite a common phenomenon on people who make a break within themselves - a division of the self occurs and two sides are born there and then. Quite common like I said but nonetheless a dangerous and fragile condition. Bergman has then broken himself free of the religious chains that have been dragging at his feet since childhood. Mind that he has done this methodically - at the end of Through a glass darkly, he ventures the hypothesis that God is love, but this is said almost with no conviction; and then in Winter Light, he finds that even a priest can lose faith when faced with the awful fact that God seems to be an absent observer of our lives and that He permits cruel things to happen all the time. And it is this divine silence that he has more troubles with and that he explores in the third film.

- So now we have the 2 sisters staying in a hotel in a town called Timoka (maybe an anagram of atomik - Bergman has always been afraid of the outside world and its many threats much like the character played by Max von Sydow in the previous movie, Winter Light) and very soon we are being shown that while there seems to be a lot going on outside the windows in the streets - with menacing war tanks roaming the streets at night - the real war is being fought inside doors.

- And here is where the comparisons with Persona begin. There are two main characters. They are women. One of them is sick (Ingrid Thulin in Silence and Liv Ullmann in Persona). The sick women can hardly speak or simply won't speak. Both of them listen to Bach on the radio and it is by this simple activity that they seem to find a way to communicate with reality and maybe get in touch with something inside of them that seems to be at odds with the world at that moment of their lives (Bergman has often said that Bach is one of his favorite composers).

- In one interview, Bergman has said that Persona can be read as a duet. This makes a lot of sense - his films are often called Chamber Dramas and it is only natural that he uses his actors as musical instruments.

- Both Ingrid Thulin's and Liv Ullmann's characters (the sick women) speak those oh-too-famous words "Nothing"- which can only mean that they seem to be trapped somehow.

- As I said earlier, the self has been divided into two halves born from the same being. And that's why in my opinion that he tries to unite them so that one can help the other. And it's here that people superficially take the sister's relationship in The Silence as incestuous and the nurse/patient one as lesbian in Persona. That couldn't be further from the truth. It's just a visual way that he came up with to show us two parts coming together. It could as easily be a woman and a man.

- I will end here but will come back to this when I have anything more to say but I will say this one more thing just to finish off: at the end of The Silence, Bergman did not succeed to bring the two sides together (and that's why the mother and the son embark on their journey once again - after all, it hasn't reached its end/goal). However, he did achieve that in Persona (in the famous scene where Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann's faces come together as one) and that's why at the end of that film, when Bergman seems to have made peace with himself, he made the war film Shame - now that he faced himself and succeeded, he had to face an even greater oponent: Mankind.

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#5 Post by zedz » Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:14 pm

I'm not sure I subscribe completely to Annie's theory, but Bergman's reuse of Jorgen Lindstrom in the prologue to Persona could be another piece of evidence in support of the connection.

I'm inclined to go for a slightly different interpretation. I've always thought that The Silence signals a new approach from Bergman (more image-driven than script-driven), with themes, motifs and techniques from it being reworked not only in Persona but in several other films (Shame and Cries and Whispers, for example).

For me, The Silence is the start of my favourite (mid to late sixties) period of Bergman, and as such it seems to have more in common stylistically with those films than with the others in the trilogy.

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#6 Post by solent » Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:52 pm

I agree with Zedz as to THE SILENCE marking a change within the trilogy itself. In a sense both GLASS DARKLY & WINTER LIGHT can be viewed in a strictly conventional sense. To make 'sense' out of THE SILENCE in this way leads to difficulties. Like Pinter's plays of the time THE SILENCE compares rather closely. Its lack of conventionality - as a film - stems from its lack of verification and backround character information (c.f. Pinter). Bergman certainly takes a step forward here and infuses his characters with philosophical/psychological overtones and I think the results are interesting. Despite what I have said I can still view this film as a straightforward story unlike, for example, another contemporary work like Godard's LES CARABINIERS [which incidently infuriated audiences]. Begman was a master, he knew that the reality of film could not be taken apart too much, unlike other art forms. His next films straddled the thematic world of THE SILENCE but by the 70s he was into real human relationships and a new, interesting phase.

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#7 Post by Lino » Fri Jan 07, 2005 10:25 am

I understand that my take on it is pretty personal and oblique even. But you failed to grasp what I was saying. I was talking about the main themes of the film as compared to Persona and the way Bergman seemed to be making films as therapy to work out unfinished business in his mind/soul.

Clearly, like you both said, his aproach to his subjects changed, i.e. his visual style developped into something much more interesting. But that is just scratching the surface. If you get right under the skin of it, you'll see that there is a lot to be scared of but also a lot to marvel at.

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#8 Post by Michael » Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:12 am

It's just a visual way that he came up with to show us two parts coming together.
That's very obvious in Persona. But in The Silence, one of them dies.. in other words, one of the halves dies so how is that the two parts, the two halves come together?

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#9 Post by Lino » Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:38 am

In the last paragraph of the post you took my quote from, I explain that in The Silence he did not achieve that union - between the yin and yang of his soul - and that's why one of the parts dies or so he wishes/fears/hopes. But in Persona, it reappears because clearly there's some unfinished business left to solve or even that he was too foolish to think that having one part die means that he is rid of it. Of course, that is very dangerous to think so, because we cannot live without the other part of ourselves. It's the balance of the two that we must strive to achieve. So, I guess that we do have to make compromises even with ourselves.

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#10 Post by Michael » Fri Jan 07, 2005 12:02 pm

How did I miss that?! Sorry for not paying close attention, Annie Mall...the coffee didn't kick in enough! But I think your theory is interesting. Perhaps Bergman doesn't want the "yin and yang" balance to be achieved because The Silence is about the death of God....the cavernous void of the soul. I often think that the sick woman (Ingrid Thulin) is a metaphor of God while her sister (the human race perhaps) is out flirting with sins, abandoning God. Since this film is a part of the Faith Trilogy, it deals with faith and the lack of it. But I'm not sure that it could also apply to Persona, which I think is on a total different plane. More psychological I would say.

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#11 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Feb 07, 2005 6:50 am

I've just rewatched Winter Light a few times over the weekend and thought I'd post my feelings about it. I thought it was an excellent film, it looks very bleak as Peter Cowie says in his ten minute discussion, but it is a beautiful, crisp bleakness, as with the other films in the trilogy. This seems the most realistic of the three to me though, as it is set in a familiar environment rather than on an island or in a hotel in an unnamed city, perhaps reflecting the idea of there being nothing beyond what we see, no God, just the earth and the people on it. In a way the isloated island, the lighthouse, the attic room, the helicopter arriving at a precise moment Karin needs her miracle and the shipwreck in Through A Glass Darkly all seem heightened, suggesting the placement there for a purpose (of course that of the director, but in the context of the film it could suggest the presence of a guiding force) and The Silence suggests that after we are shown no God beyond what we create, we have to cope with the frailty of the physical world itself and our relationships with people in it. The abstractness of the world in The Silence perhaps suggests that Bergman is saying that the interior world in each of us is important in affecting our relationship to others and the outside world. That interior world could be seen as our spirit, our relationship to God that allows us to do deeds (bad or good) and when we get no response that motivates us (God's silence), we lose an important motivating force and may face a crisis in our social interactions or even our relationship to ourselves when we feel purposeless, not here for a reason or as part of a grand plan, but just as individuals. This abstractness that I feel in the look of framing films in the trilogy is not to say that I favour Winter Light over either of the other two films, I think they are all excellent!

I should say that I am not religious at all and find it impossible to believe in an all powerful God controlling and guiding us, which might be a necessary statement in light of which my comments about these films can be seen. It is very interesting however to have a debate about the issues surrounding religion and I think these films do it really well.

I think Winter Light concerns itself with looking deeply at the question of faith and why we need it. It seems to me that the film is very open in its questioning of faith, open to any answer a question may point towards, although as many obstacles as thrown in the path of religious belief as possible to test religion and how people can believe in a world where so much evil and sadness is possible - or how necessary it is for belief because of that. In this sense, I think the only thing the film does not accept is unquestioning faith.

The tragic way that the letter brings the Pastor's emotional crisis to a head just when he is needed most is very well done. I guess it makes the audience realise that those we look to for knowledge and comfort are just as human as anyone. Not only the Pastor, but also Marta Lundberg (Ingrid Thulin), who is a schoolmistress, and therefore just as important in providing knowledge and education to all. I think the film is asking us whether it is right to place so much expectation on the shoulders of one person, whether it be Pastor, schoolmistress, a policeman or a doctor (even if it is their main vocation and they should be more expert at it than a lay-person), and that is a major shake to our sense of protection by not only religion, but also society.

This leads into the idea of religion in particular being necessary for people because it comforts and protects, gives people a sense of their place in society and an assurance of what will happen when they die and that their loved ones will also be with them in Heaven. This sense of security is what is important and in a way allows people to live their lives when without it, day to day life may seem crushing, futile and perhaps unbearable. For example Persson, triggered off by his crisis of faith, may see his children not as a continuation of God's design but simply as fragile beings that he was responsible for bringing into a harsh, unforgiving world constantly under the threat of nuclear annihilation, with no discernable purpose other than continuing his bloodline, and this too may be unbearable.

This is the situation the Pastor and Jonas Persson find themselves in - in simple cause and effect terms (because other people have such crises and do not have the foundations of their faith challenged, this may have been building until one event broke them, or the one event so changed their perception of everything else in the world, the certainties that they once had, that they lost their faith) the Pastor is in crisis due to the death of his wife and Persson from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Tomas Ericsson has always been plagued with doubts as shown by his comments to Persson about how his wife comforted him and, when at the train crossing he says that he was forced into his job, the audience realises that he has been forced into taking on a job which carries a heavy responsibility. The film again raises issues about how not everyone gets to choose their roles in life and it is dangerous and unrealistic to completely place your mental and physical wellbeing in someone who may be ill equipped, not through any fault of their own, but through only being human.

The loss of his wife is devastating to Tomas. With no one to quell his doubts he has lost faith and is carrying out the ritual of his job without any commitment to the ideas behind his actions. This is contrasted with Algot Frovik (Allan Edwall's character). In this scene the emphasis is not really on the fact that he is a believer, but that he is someone who is examining the theology of his faith, asking questions of it, applying it to his life, to his disability and trying to understand his faith, rather than being caught in the ritual or speeches that characterise it (I think it is important that both Tomas and Algot say the "God, why has thou forsaken me?" line in different contexts). It is perhaps easy for the audience to see that Algot has chosen his profession rather than being forced into it as seems to have happened in Tomas's case.

Tomas treats Marta badly because he is such a deep spiritual crisis that he cannot engage with her. If you do not like or understand yourself, then it is difficult to even begin to understand or engage with others (an idea which I think is examined further in The Silence). Also it seems to me that he hurts Marta in the school room not because he truly hates her but because he can see she is truly in love with him, and she has also touched something in him, something that he has been trying to hide from both her and himself until her letter forces him to confront his feelings. This I think is Bergman questioning the idea, after he has questioned religion, of physical relationships and love as a replacement for religion. Tomas could love Marta, but even this love will eventually be lost through death, as was the case with his wife. He may also want to keep his memory of his wife and he may be frightened of another love making him forget his previous one.

So he kills any chance of a relationship by treating her so harshly that she will not be able to love him. But in Marta's lines at the end of the schoolroom scene "You can't survive on your own. You can't survive Tomas dear. You'll hate yourself to death", she perhaps recognises that Tomas has a lot in common with Persson. He is committing suicide but just at a slower pace - he is allowing himself to physically deteriorate as he has spiritually diminished. I guess this is Bergman showing how important religion and love is, but also without backing away from the notion that they can also be flawed systems. I think Marta's realisation of Tomas's motives behind hurting her and the way she stays with Tomas after the awful argument in the schoolroom suggests some hope for her staying with him. It could be argued that she is silly to do so but I think it is an example of what Bergman sees as a great quality as shown by Karin in Through A Glass Darkly and Ester in The Silence, that of self sacrifice.

Even at its bleakest, in Winter Light there are still people and an idea of contact with them, of self sacrifice, of being as good a person as you can even if God is silent, or you get no reward, or no one turns up to your church service. This then leads to Bergman questioning this in The Silence.

I find the whole of this trilogy to be more harrowing than any horror film. It is so brutally honest in showing doubts and the death of faith, of people, of relationships with no guarantee that anything will be left to take their place. In that sense it is very frightening because it throws light on the emptiness and harshness of life that we make bearable through artificial constructs such as fantasy, family, madness (Through A Glass Darkly), religious ritual and love (Winter Light), casual sex, sexual fantasy, children, writing and knowledge (The Silence). These categories are only where I feel each area is stated most explicitly, as I think all of these constructs run through all three of the films (for example, Ester's writing is perhaps the best illustration in the three films of the idea of creation as another way of asserting oneself while living in a bleak world, but we should not forget David's writing in Through A Glass Darkly). In this way the films are thematically interconnected. I think in this way the three films can be seen as one long discourse, but not one which stops at the end of The Silence, I definitely agree with the idea that the ideas are expanded and played with in Persona and onwards. It is perhaps like one large novel exploring these ideas with "The Film Trilogy" as one chapter of it.

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#12 Post by Nihonophile » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:41 am

(212) Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie...

Does Vilgot Sjoman deliver the goods?

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#13 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Feb 25, 2005 9:36 am

Nihonophile wrote:(212) Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie...

Does Vilgot Sjoman deliver the goods?
Sorry about yet another post (I promise to be quiet after this!)

Yes, it is a very good documentary, very worthwhile for the behind the scenes footage and interviews, but I think Sjoman subordinates himself to the documenting task. There are no flashy effects or over the top editing styles to say to the audience 'look, I'm filming this!', he just lets the footage speak for itself. I'd guess that it would be good to see this in relation to the I Am Curious films though. It would be an interesting companion and an opportunity to see Sjoman's style as a 'pure' documentarian before he went to make his own mix of documentary and fiction films.

But I would buy the set for an interest in the Bergman films primarily and look forward to the documentary as an insight into Winter Light going deep into detail of that film's making, just as I think of the Maysles documentary on Royal Tenenbaums as a companion to the film, rather than a standalone film like the other Criterion releases of their work. I'm just trying to remember off the top of my head but in Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie the five episodes are broken up, with the first one dealing with how the story was written, through to the last episode, where the relatively disappointing reception to the film is discussed. I liked the move from the first episode with only a few participants, to the production episodes where a lot of people are involved in bringing the story to the screen - it is a very good transition, showing how strange it must feel as a writer to have all these people working on your story. It has a lot of good digressions, such as going into the prop masters providing Allan Edwall insight into his character's disability, and showing just how minute Bergman's direction to his actors can be, as well as how focused you have to be to perform some of the intense scenes many times over.

I particularly liked the view of the costumes. The drawings were excellent and I have to say that I had underestimated how much effort went into creating them. I guess beforehand I must have just assumed that they stole a real pastor's clothes for the film! It had just never occured to me that they needed costumes! But I guess that 'not noticing' shows how well the job was done, as they were not so noticeable that they felt out of place to me.

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#14 Post by Michael » Fri Mar 04, 2005 12:42 pm

Winter Light has be one of the most gripping films ever made.. isn't it? The chapel feels like an ice cavern.. walking in there trying to find God's warmth but you end up breaking out in cold sweats. The film is like the village itself - microscopic, eerie, quiet, icy and yet it manages to make me feel like the universe is about to end on that day. Very gripping film...

Marta is among my favorite Bergman characters. Her long monologue (reading her letter to Tomas the pastor) never fails to make me teary. How can this atheist be more warm, loving, caring, and faithful than the pastor !?! Amazing creature.

Quote from an interview with John Simon, as published in Ingmar Bergman Directs, 1972.

I think I have made just one picture that I really like, and that is Winter Light (The Communicants). That is my only picture about which I feel that I have started here and ended there and that everything along the way has obeyed me. Everything is exactly as I wanted to have it, in every second of this picture. I couldn't make this picture today; it's impossible; but I saw it a few weeks ago together with a friend and I was very satisfied.
- Ingmar Bergman

If he said that in 1972 (after making Persona and possibly Cries & Whispers), then I wonder if Winter Light is his personal favorite work.

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#15 Post by yukiyuki » Sun Oct 30, 2005 11:47 am

Have questions for The Silence

yes it is his most abstract and questions are how could we define that this movie is about the God's silence. which scenes define that, and what if God is not absence in the movie, what will the 2 women do? thx

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#16 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 30, 2005 4:22 pm

yukiyuki wrote:Have questions for The Silence

yes it is his most abstract and questions are how could we define that this movie is about the God's silence. which scenes define that, and what if God is not absence in the movie, what will the 2 women do? thx
Well in terms of God's silence it is more an aesthetic absence, in that God as a factor is removed from this film in sharp contrast to his heavy presence in the former two films of the trilogy. It's reinforced by the isolation and strangeness of the landscape.

Also, I would suggest that the film is not so much about God's silence as it is eliminating him from the equation entirely. Many of Bergman's films are about the silence of God, which becomes a central problem for many of the characters trying to find warmth in a religion where their spiritual comfort seems unreciprocated. Here we have His silence taken as given, and everyone in the film not only has no recourse to him, but no awareness that there is even a silence at all. By placing this film in such a strange and abstract location, Bergman makes God's removal more natural and unforced. It distances his characters from the spiritual questioning we would expect. In fact, it distances them from any spiritual norms at all, and makes the absence more understandable than if the film took place in, say, the town of Winter Light with its pastor and parish.
which scenes define that?
Well, in a way all of them do. Anyway, it's less a theme than a technique.
and what if God is not absence in the movie, what will the 2 women do?
If he's not, no one seems to know this--and considering the great pain of those characters in a Bergman film who do have recourse to God, I'd say His presence is small consolation.

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#17 Post by bunuelian » Sun Oct 30, 2005 5:53 pm

It's been a while since I've watched The Silence, but if I recall correctly, Thulin's character prays while she's in her drunken agony for God to not let her die in that place. She is painfully alone then, and at the end of the film her sister abandons her - leaving her even more alone. If Thulin's character is the one religious person in the film, she's getting no comfort from it.

Eh - this isn't helping much. I should watch this again.

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#18 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 30, 2005 8:26 pm

bunuelian wrote:It's been a while since I've watched The Silence, but if I recall correctly, Thulin's character prays while she's in her drunken agony for God to not let her die in that place. She is painfully alone then, and at the end of the film her sister abandons her - leaving her even more alone. If Thulin's character is the one religious person in the film, she's getting no comfort from it.
Hmm, I entirely forgot about that part. I should really watch it again, too.

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#19 Post by yukiyuki » Tue Nov 01, 2005 1:15 pm

i'll try to rewatch again, BTW i don't have through a glass darkly and Winter Light, does the other 2 movies have any relations with the silence or not?, so it is ok only watching the silence

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#20 Post by pmunger » Tue Nov 01, 2005 1:19 pm

I would say it is ok to watch only The Silence since there is no real link between them beside the God theme and that Bergman stated that those 3 films formed a trilogy then retracted if I remember correctly.

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#21 Post by blindside8zao » Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:21 pm

If anyone has them handy, underlined or wouldn't mind checking, what are the exact quotes about the spider god and the echo god? If an online PDF exists that'd be even more wonderful.

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#22 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Apr 18, 2007 6:32 am

I may sound like a presumptuous boob, but I felt like a relatively simple symbolic story has been blown right over in most analyses of THE SILENCE.

I saw the film a simple allegory between two sections of the modern world (or Bergman's view of it) battling for the mind of the youth and therefore the future/direction of the planet. It's about the bleak odds faced by concerned artists and thinkers comfronting a world going to high hell.

Two women are competing for the attention of a curious, impressionable child. Outside the window the sounds & sights of a world going to moral & aesthetic and physical hell is rumbling about: tanks, threat of the end of the world, frivolous mindless amorality. This is the backdrop against which the battle for the future of man, especially as viewed by those who have the ability and passion to shape perceptions & tastes like Bergman, plays out. Two sides in a battle for the future of society.

One archtype is fucked up, intellectual, introspective, unphysical, tormented by the hopelessness of a pointless existence yet simultaneously unwilling to die or stop caring-- the compulsion to weave one's self (of this human type of the perceiving, seeing, the wise, the artistic person) into the fabric of society for it's betterment is inbred and irresistable despite the long, bleak odds.

The other archtype isn't particularly self-conscious, self-aware, exists solely for the satisfaction of physical pleasure, engaging in satisfaction of animal lusts first and considering the implications, if at all, only when unpleasant repercussions arise. This archtype escapes the compulsion to introspection by it's own good looks, and perhaps a lower intelligence quotient. This sister is the mass of souls going through life undeliberately, unconcerned with the implications of their own or anyone else's existence.. at least not those that have no effect on their immediate physical life. Whereas the tormented introspective artistic-type relies stereotypically on drugs and alcohol for escape, this type relies defiantly on sex for escape, "refusing to face the moral implications" (as a protestant aesthete like Bergman would likely see it deep down in a somewhat puritanical origin). And it may be that this type is the happier of the two, looking quite physically robust & healthy, and desireable by any normal human being of any intellectual persuasion (attesting to the unhealthful and even physically unattractive and even at times distasteful disposition of the tormented artist in many cases, socially and physically).

Between these two influences, there is no moral compass, there is no voice (the hotel attendant) to advise and guide the youth towards the correct path... the young mind wanders the hallways of the world, adrift and without a compass. And-- after years of the heavy influence of the pleasure-seeking, physical world upon the child, with no functional voice to steer him towards the rarified zone of true insight-- when the world of art, the world of literature, or the world of wisdom attempts to communicate something profound.. it's too late. The message is lost on deaf ears. It might as well be gibberish. The rising generation doesn't have the slightest idea what the prior generations of brilliant insight and artistic wisdom are trying to communicate. They aren't going to get it.

A sad movie about the long odds that a man like Bergman felt he was facing in the lonely business of Enlightening The Planet (we are dealing with these high minded concepts indeed). Not only is there a moral silence-- lack of the real world response-- but the silence of God in the providing of a helping hand. If the world goes to hell, it goes to hell. There is no one to stop it or even call a brief time out so we could talk about it.

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#23 Post by Tommaso » Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:11 am

HerrSchreck wrote:I may sound like a presumptuous boob, but I felt like a relatively simple symbolic story has been blown right over in most analyses of THE SILENCE.
Not at all, though I'm not quite sure which analyses you have in mind. I find your point of view quite convincing, but it is not excluding the interpretation that Lino gave further up in this thread. I also tend to see "The Silence" as a kind of early attempt at handling the themes of both "Persona" and "Shame". These two women seem to represent two sides of one person which cannot come together, and both of them use 'drugs' (alcohol and sex) as an attempt to overcome the 'silence' of their other half. Both clearly are neurotic, and in this respect I am even reminded obliquely of Clodagh and Ruth in "Black Narcissus". Thus I wouldn't see the 'intellectual' sister as necessarily superior or wiser. Although Bergman surely had a preference for the 'artistic type', the film is also about the failure of 'art', its insufficiency to change anything (and sex doesn't help either). The world going to hell outside would then rather be an exteriorisation of that inner conflict, that inner 'silence'. And that inner hell, that inner insufficiency of the artist is then visualized in the famous 'destructive'/modernist opening of "Persona". To put it bluntly: I don't think Bergman still believed in the transformative possibilities of art in that stage of his career (unlike in the 50s, or again in "Fanny and Alexander"). But I see that your interpretation is completely valid, especially if you consider the film on its own.

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#24 Post by HerrSchreck » Thu Apr 19, 2007 4:20 pm

But you see I don't see this as a human study of conflicts not reconcilable in a single human mind: I see the two women representing two sects of society that are fully and completely What They Are. One cares desperately about the state of Things while not giving a damn about her own body (like many self destructive tormented artist/thinker-types, at least in the cornball stereotype.. hunched over w a cigaret burned down to a stub), the other couldn't give a shit about these concerns yet is very concerned with her own body.

I do believe that at heart Bergman saw himself in the suffering sister, and I don't think he was capable of the impulses towards blatant cruelty and campaign of total self satisfaction of the sexual sister.

The end-of-the-world state of the world outside is the threat... the reason for the sense of urgency inherent in the "need" to communicate something to this youth. It's definitely a competition, this need to plant a seed in the idea of this youth. But Bergman didn't see much hope at that particular moment, since when the dying intellectual sister attempts to pass on the fruits of her life to the boy, he can't understand a thing. He's oblivious-- it's just a meaningless message for him.

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#25 Post by tartarlamb » Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:31 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:The end-of-the-world state of the world outside is the threat... the reason for the sense of urgency inherent in the "need" to communicate something to this youth. It's definitely a competition, this need to plant a seed in the idea of this youth. But Bergman didn't see much hope at that particular moment, since when the dying intellectual sister attempts to pass on the fruits of her life to the boy, he can't understand a thing. He's oblivious-- it's just a meaningless message for him.
I think, like Tommasso, that the film has a lot of thematic similarities to Persona, but I disagree about what those similarities are (probably because we have different interpretations of Persona). Both of them owe a lot to Strindberg's The Stronger, where the actress that speaks gains power over the silent actress because, presumably, the act of speech is an exercise of will. In The Dance of Death, and other later plays like The Ghost Sonata, the act of speech can be an act of vampirism, robbing a person of their identity. Bergman staged all of these plays, of course, throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s (except maybe the Dance of Death, which I think he swore never to do because of Anders Ek's death).

Bergman reverses, or at least plays with the idea-- the characters in The Silence and Persona that are unresponsive, in speech and action, are the stronger power. I don't think in either film the women are two sides of the same person -- I think its an act of vampirism: the silent woman is stealing the identity of the weaker woman, who needs to communicate. Communication is an act of artifice, the need to construct a role (Persona) for oneself and play it for others -- its an act of vulnerability and desperate need. This construction of identity, whether it be by an actress on a stage or an ordinary nurse, is, of course, open to attack and criticism (Bergman was and is obsessed with the cruelty and power of the critic).

I agree that there's an urgent need to communicate to the youth in The Silence, but I don't think its an act of failure in the end. It isn't so bleak as that. Bergman is saying that, if people find a way to communicate earnestly and sincerely with each other, there is no need for God, the cosmic silent partner in all of our lives. Persona is a much darker film, in my opinion. At the end of Persona, Bergman doesn't leave us with any hope that communication can be anything but insincere, and in fact, an act of violence.

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