Thursday, August 02, 2007

TYSTNADEN/THE SILENCE - crushing proximity

THE SILENCE is an intense, claustrophobic, nihilistic movie from pantheon director, Ingmar Bergman. We are in an decadent, richly furnished hotel full of baroque cornices, thickly patterned rugs and endless corridors. It's a sinister place - as I find all hotels to be - aggressive in its symmetry and in its attempt to deceive and create the impression of a palace. There is no escape from the hotel. One might look out of the balcony onto the town square. But this is full of towns-folk apparently fleeing some sort of military occupation - their belongings piled high onto carts. So we are left with the inhabitants of the hotel for company. There are a handful of servants - a sinister old waiter and a bar-man who is up for casual, animalistic sex. There are dwarves who treat the little boy at the centre of the story - Johan - as some sort of dress-up doll. Perhaps this is better than wandering endlessly through corridors, filmed by Sven Nykvist in the creepy style that inspired Kubrick's THE SHINING. In the main suite we see two sisters who are prisoners of each other's company. Johan's mother Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) and her sister Ester (Ingrid Thulin). Ester is a frigid voyeur who drinks to pass the time and gives a cryptic letter to Johan at the close of the film. Anna is a passionate woman who is prey to every impulse. The sisters barely speak. The sound-track of the film is made up of disconcerting background hums, ticking clocks and tank movements. There is barely any plot and the meaning, if any, is obscure. Watching THE SILENCE is like being caught in a nightmare of suppressed passions, aimlessness and vague, un-named threats. It is a masterpiece.

TYSTNADEN/THE SILENCE was originally released in 1962 and is available on DVD.

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