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Archive for September 20th, 2018

 © 2018 by James Clark

      Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Silence (1963), is generally understood to be part of a trilogy upon the issue of an absent God. Though it does raise affinities to the film, Through a Glass Darkly (1961), it also swarms with the discoveries of the decidedly non-sixties earlier films, The Seventh Seal (1957) and The Virgin Spring (1960). Instead of packaging 3-packs like that, I think we’re well advised to notice that every one of his films (or every one of which marked his graduation from hack duties) deals with the same obsessive shock that world history has boarded a train going nowhere.

That the train going somewhere is far from transparent may be inferred by the fact that the most unlikeable figure, in The Silence, happens to be also the only one with a taste for integrity. This so-called person of interest, perhaps predictably, comes to us as totally upstaged by her sister, Ester, in the First-Class compartment of the train, they share, along with a boy, Johan, of about 10, whose mother, Anna, feeling the heat of the well-appointed but not air-conditioned cell, fans herself with a magazine. Ester does not feel that heat pressing upon her sister. She’s dressed in a tasteful suit, and she could be taken for a middle-management bureaucrat. But she feels heat nevertheless.

The nature of distribution of heat is as important as it is obscure; and it needs clear-sightedness on our part, a take going beyond the flabby pundits who slide off the rails in claiming that Ester has been stricken by a plague-like, devilish biological killer. She does have, several seconds into the first scene, some kind of fit, bending over and vomiting and needing Anna’s help to reach the washroom. But the irony of the very beautiful actress, Ingrid Thulin’s, vivid portrayal of Ester—forbidding the notion of her being eaten by microbes—never becomes a question. Anna, played by actress, Gunnil Lindblom, though having a handsome face, is overweight and has no taste in apparel. The credits have been accompanied by the loud and racing ticking of a clock. The moment of Ester’s cracking up had been accompanied by the pronounced rushing and ringing of the train. Johan had, in asking Ester the impossible question of what the signage in and out of the vehicle meant, underlined to the adults what it feels like to be visited by a range of action foreign and solidly indifferent to them. But perhaps it was the universe they had inhabited all their life. That the next station finds them stopping over to allow Ester to deal with her malaise, once again introduces a current of foreignness they seem very unprepared for. (more…)

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