Saturday, August 6, 2011
Bergman Trilogy 1 - The Silence
Anyway, you aren't here to read about my boring hobbies. I hope. Today I watched another Bergman, The Silence, directed in 1963. It's the last film in his first trilogy, although the films weren't intended to be, he just later noticed the similar themes in all three. I feel like I keep writing the same thing about these films, but they are pretty similar aside from plot. Great plot, great cinematography - I really liked it!
I was going to use a summary from IMDB but they are all awful. The film is about two sisters, Anna and Ester. Anna is attractive and promiscuous, and Ester is studious and sickly. With them is Johan, Anna's son. They stop at a hotel, but no one speaks the same language and they struggle to communicate with those around them (and even each other). It's almost a silent film, at many points. Anna often goes out to pick up men, and Ester lies in bed, drinking too much or trying to work. Johan is left alone to wander the strange, basically empty hotel. The sisters are spiteful to each other, and Johan is stuck in the middle.
There is much symbolism. Ebert points it out, saying, "I could turn analytical and point out that Anna, who picks up a man and has sex with him in the hotel, represents Body, and that Ester, who works and reads in bed and at the table in her room, represents Mind. The doorway between their rooms is the portal through which they stage their rivalry, and only Johan passes back and forth thoughtlessly," (Great Movies III, 65). Even he remains mystified by some parts, still, moments later saying Johan is the key to the film, but unsure of why. He seems to be the link between the two women, who are basically halves of the same person.
I liked the scenes with Johan, because they were cute and charming - and the scenes with Anna and Ester were so unsettling. Their scorn for each other is strange, and nasty. I liked it because it was so unnerving, but the scenes with Johan were a good relief. He was a bridge for the sisters, but he also was a great link to viewers (or for me), as it seemed like we were peeping and observing the strangeness together.
Obviously, there are a lot of themes of silences and isolation in the film. Everyone speaks a different language, and no one can understand each other. It's very frustrating at times, not as a viewer, but because we (or I) could understand the difficulty of their situation. It's a very powerless feeling, to not be able to express yourself. I remember visiting Germany and ordering food with my classmates in a restaurant. When the food arrived, the waitress asked us in German whose dishes were whose. We all stared at her blankly, lost. We had no way to identify our orders, and no way to even try to communicate, let alone do something simple like ask for help. It was a really bad feeling, and it was not a big deal.It just felt so difficult, like, "What do we...do?" I felt that during the movie, though. The sisters break down communication as well, starting to misunderstand each other. I thought of Winter Light during this movie, and the silence of God. Characters were wondering about it then, and now, there is only silence, and it is fully realized.
There is the usual great cinematography. Do I have to say it? Lots of close ups of faces, interesting angles. Unique lighting. Everything that I love about Bergman. It really doesn't get old. It gets better, for me. The more used to Bergman's style I become, the more I appreciate it. I understand it better, and it's easier to get more meaning out of the shots now. I really enjoy his style.
I just really have liked watching this trilogy. I mean, I never wanted to watch the films, or write about them, but I really loved them when I was watching them, and I wanted to talk about them all the time when they were over. It's been interesting! I'm glad I was forced to watch them, I'm sure I would never have on my own. It was worth it.
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Silence
Buy it on Amazon