“Silence” is a foundational metaphor of the film whose meaning is the silence of something like the human soul in a world of triviality, blind impulses, greedy consumption, indifference and hate armed with military technology. But what is exactly silent in the human world depicted in the film? The term “soul” is drastically over- and out-worn long before the beginning of the 60’s in the previous century, when Bergman was concentrated on working with the idea and, finally, with production of the film.

Two sisters and a child, the son of the younger one, are crossing Europe, which is transformed by the chronic war and outrageously monotonous “survival” in an impossible circumstances, into a chronically ill patient – habitual and depressed alertness impregnates the atmosphere of the city, where action takes place. The hotel where Ester, Anna and Johan stay, is, as if, without air – it is like human history without present tense, when past and future seized the present, transforming it into a kind of timeless purgatory. But it is in this kind of a city and in such an hotel the most psychologically significant events of the story take place – relations between Anna and Ester took the most dramatic turn, relationship between Anna and her son Johan became more articulated, relations between Johan and his aunt Ester took prophetic turn, and Johan‘s relations with the Hotel room service steward, the old man, became the backdrop for Johan existentially spiritual growth and his growing attention to his aunt. Even casual meeting (ephemeral anonymous contact) of Johan and worker in the hotel gave Bergman the chance to explain how work, when human beings become dependent on it too much, leads to psychological degradation and distortion of human interaction.

In Bergman’s films of the mature period (“The Silence” belongs to) commercial calculations (which cinema in general as a very expensive medium and even films of non-commercial kind are forced to dignify) are always subordinate to their (interwoven philosophical) content and their (aesthetically loaded) form. Universal human problems (as always in Bergman rooted in clearly differentiated socially objectivized conditions of life and the human psychological participations in these conditions) define the films’ content and the emotional perception, feeling, intuition and understanding of these problems define the form. “The Silence” is an exemplary film in which social, political, religious and economic dogmas usually dissolved in their anonymous factuality, matter-of-factness and it-is-as-it-is-ness, have an encounter with personages and viewers’ unconscious and conscious minds.

“The Silence” is not about how the “human soul” reacts on the facts of life. The cliché encounters of the heroes of commercial movies can also be named as “human soul’s” clash with circumstances and/or with other “human souls”. But Bergman in his film differentiates between three type of human soul – soul of the body (soul of bodily needs and their emotional representations to the human mind), which is personified by Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), soul of the human self (the soul of holistic personality which reacts on various aspect of human and non-human environment), which is personified by Ester (Ingrid Thulin), and the childish soul (soul psychologically growing on the subject’s identifications with human objects), which is personified by the pre-adolescent boy Johan. In interaction between these three personages the viewers get the picture of how human individuals and societies can repeat (project themselves/itself into the world and into the future) and modify (change or distort themselves/itself by acting in the world and preparing to act in the future) for the better or the worse.

21st century needs Bergman’s cinema even more than the 20th century did. We personally know many people who are not able to watch “The Silence” for more than several minutes. This inability to follow Bergman’s thinking and cinematic language is an indicator of the success of commercial (entertaining) movies occupying the human psyche as did long ago Fernando Cortez’ occupation forces which used Christmas tree-like ornamental trinkets – to conquer the awkward but authentic native cultures of American archipelagos.

Bergman is rehearsing a scene with Ingrid Thulin

Room service steward (Hakan Jahnberg) is playacting in front of Johan a joking pantomime about mortality as human destiny

Ester is grateful to the old room steward for helping her to distract herself after a bout of panicky despair

In comparison with what Ester is confronting in this moment, her sister (Anna, Gunnel Lindblom) and Johan are like little innocent creatures inside the womb of mindless living, when we feel safe from the intrusion of alien powers from outside of our lives.

While Johan’s mother is absent pursuing her own occupations, Ester shares her meal with Johan

In this shot we see Ester not just looking at death near her world, but when her end is already close enough to throw its shadow on Ester’s being

Ester is writing to Johan an important letter consisting of several foreign words

Anna’s anonymous sexual partner (Birger Malmsten) is, probably, went through terrible experiences during the war and in no way is “scapegoated” by Ester or Bergman for “intervening into and disturbing” the life of the family. Nobody can reproach him personally for desperately needing consolation for his psychological traumas.

Tystnaden (1963) Filmografinr: 1963/12
Anna and Johan – what more can a mother do for her child, except being nearby, with her maternal generosity. But even her overwhelming emotional power is not enough for Johan – Ester’s presence with her ascetic intellectual aura is necessary as well for furthering Johan’s development.

Posted om May 26, 2016 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “The Silence” (1963) – Silence of the Human Soul and Noise of Technology Versus Meaningful Communication: The Last Part of Bergman’s Religious Trilogy (“Through Glass Darkly” – 1960, “Winter Light” – 1961-1962, And “The Silence” – 1962) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Oct, 6 ’17 –   Little Johan Meets The Hotel Room Service Attendant (Hakan Jahnberg) – From Ingmar Bergman’s “The Silence” (1963) by Acting-Out Politics