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.

Såsom I En Spegel (1961) (aka Through A Glass Darkly)
Ingmar Bergman

“Papa spoke to me”

Through A Glass DarklyIngmar Bergman‘s Oscar-winning film is the first of the “Faith” trilogy and is followed by Nattvardsgästerna (1962) and Tystnaden (1963). The title refers to a biblical passage that means we (humans) have an imperfect interpretation of God and we will see clearly later (possibly after death).

The story revolves around 4 people on an island and spans about 1 day. Karin, played convincingly by Harriet Andersson, has just been discharged from a mental institution. She lives with her husband Martin, father David and brother Minus. Karin’s gradual mental disintegration, David’s indulgence in his writing more than family, Martin’s disappointment at the non-reciprocation of his love and Minus’ struggles with his sexual identity set up the atmosphere of constrained relations and developing sorrow. Karin’s shuttling between her visions and reality, which she knows but cannot do anything about, is known only to Minus who appears to be the only hope for Karin.

Conceptually, the film offers two interpretations of god – one that of love (which David sees and suggests to Minus to hold on) and one that of hate (which is seen by Karin when she views god in a spider form). It, however, ends on a hopeful note leaving the details to its sequels. Beautifully shot in black and White by veteran Sven Nykvist, the movie is characterized by strong performances and thematic costume work like all Bergman films. The film won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1961.