Friday, December 19, 2008

The Silence - Ingmar Bergman

Two sisters; one dying, the other sexually promiscuous - both haunted by the others presence.  Trapped in a hotel room, in a foreign country, on a holiday gone awry.  With such a simple premise, Bergman weaves together his characteristic obsessions; man alone in a godless world, death, longing, suffering.  Watching his films is like driving a car destined to crash.  You know it'll end badly, but you carry on, for the sake of the ride.  It's worth dying for.

It's not all bleak, just refreshingly serious.  There is not a frame that doesn't force you to meditate on the purpose of our lives.  As so much is said, in Silence.  The acting is magnificent, the scenes hypnotic, technically I can't remember watching something so flawless in a long time.  But Bergman is more than just a master of his craft.  He searches for a morality in such morally confused times.  How is one to act?  How does one live?  If nothing is sacred, is all permitted?  Each of his films, though different, all deal with is these fundamental dilemmas.  And always, there is someone who personifies the way forward.     

This time, it's in the form of a child, the illegitimate son of the sexually ravenous sister.  His longing for his mother and her indulgence of his innocence make for some remarkably tender moments.  The sister's clashing egos are assuaged by his presence, forcing them to pull away from their selfishness.  Both look to him in times of trouble, but he's just a boy, not yet a man; incapable of curing their insufferable alienation.

Language is also an interesting subtext.  Both sisters find comfort in being unable to communicate with the foreign men who enter their lives.  It allows them to soliloquize, this solitude in the presence of another, liberates a feeling, words so often enslave. 

It ends badly.  The car crashes.  But Bergman makes the wind fly in your hair and gives you those moments of exhilaration, only recklessness can give.  This is film, in its highest form, by one of its greatest masters.  It's worth dying for.                

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