Bergman whittled away at his religious obsession in the trilogy of films he completed in the early 1960s: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence. The most adventurous of the three, The Silence is one of Bergman’s greatest works. Seamless in form, with every composition, every gesture, every word resounding to maximum effect, the film isolates its three main characters in a baroque hotel. Even they do not know where they are; the language is impenetrable, and there are intimations of war. The civilised fetters fall away. Bored, each of the two sisters indulges her fancyofor the one an arid masturbation, for the other a restless coupling with an anonymous barman. Looking on is the child of one of the women, a boy who makes friends with an aged servant and with a troupe of dwarves amid the endless corridors of the hotel. Bergman’s editing, and the uniform milky greyness with which Sven Nykvist imbues his cinematography, give The Silence the texture of a dreamoof a nightmareoin which God is so absent that even the sight of a tank, pausing on its painful progress through the town square, acts as a sign of some external power.
1963.English subtitles.Black and white96 mins.