Tystnaden (1963) (aka The Silence)
Ingmar Bergman

“I didn’t want to accept my wretched role. But now it’s too damn lonely. We try out attitudes and find them all worthless. The forces are all too strong. I mean the forces… the horrible forces. You need to watch your step among all the ghosts and memories.”


The SilenceThe concept of faithlessness in today’s world has been filmed by a number of directors around the world in various manifestations. But none have come close to Bergman’s “faith trilogy” (save Andrei Tarkovsky, who Bergman himself considered unparalleled). The final part of the trilogy Tystnaden (1963) is perhaps the most difficult and coldest of the three films. The film itself was (in)famous for its graphic images that were unacceptable in that period of time.

Anna, her son Johan and her sister Ester are forced to spend a few days in a hotel in a foreign country following Ester’s illness. Anna is a free-lover and commences an intense affair with a waiter at the hotel. Ester does not approve this and Anna gives Ester a cold shoulder for probing into her affairs. Meanwhile, Johan who roams in the corridors meets various people and also bonds with one of the old stewards. Ester’s illness worsens and death is not far. Ester realizes this and regrets to the old steward that her relationship with Anna is not well. Ironically, Ester, who is professionally a translator, is unable to communicate to the old steward who symbolizes a pastor/God in this situation. She is hurt by the silence of god which is seen in the strained relationships of Ester and Anna. Eventually, she passes away after passing a letter to Johan that contains the equivalent foreign terms for a few words. The film ends with Anna leaving Ester to die alone and carrying on her indifference to non-bodily love.

While the first film established God as love and the second one saw faith and disbelief in mixed proportions, Tystnaden spells faithlessness in most its characters. With Ester being the only believer, the only hope for survival is through Johan (in the form of the few foreign words she passes to to him that signify communication and hence love). The trilogy (the previous ones being Såsom I En Spegel (1961), Nattvardsgästerna (1962)), as a whole puts forth notions of God and Godlessness (that translate to love and lack of love respectively in relationships among various individuals) and manifests itself in different situations. A truly meditative set of films that you have to watch in a unperturbed environment.