raise hackles

The Silence (1963 film)

The Silence (Tystnaden) is a 1963 film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Ingrid Thulin and Gunnel Lindblom.


Two sisters stop at a hotel in an unidentified European country on the brink of war or insurrection. The older, more cultured sister, Ester (Ingrid Thulin), who translates literature, is terminally ill, and her fear of death clouds her relationship with her younger, beautiful sister Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), who's depicted as the fleshly side of the spirit/flesh dichotomy. The younger sister neglects her son Johan (Jörgen Lindström) (a boy of 12 or so), who wanders the seemingly half-empty hotel.



After Bergman's death, Woody Allen, in the New York Times, noted that the film opens up when you realize that the two women represent different aspects of the same person.

In a scene, Johan stares out of the window as a lone tank rolls down the street at night; in Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag considers it an all-too-obvious phallic symbol. According to critic Leo Braudy, Bergman intended the film as "a rendering of hell on earth — my hell."


The film has been classified as a "landmark of modernist cinema" alongside Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura (1960), and Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour (1967). Popular film critic Vernon Young reversed his position on Bergman and admitted in 1971 that The Silence was an "extraordinary achievement in its way...The Silence rewards effort..."


The Silence was released without censorship in Sweden in October, 1963, but the original director's cut included controversial sex scenes, homosexuality, nudity, masturbation, urination, and strong language, leading to a "storm of controversy" with censor boards at the time.

According to Jerry Vermilye, The Silence "...achieved a measure of sensationalistic attention by dint of its scenes of sensuality, mild though they were. It raised a great deal of controversy in Sweden, and its notoriety continued to raise hackles elsewhere in Europe. All of which attracted the attention of filmgoers; in Britain and the United States it became a considerable hit, perhaps for reasons of prurience rather than art.

Due to its reputation for "pornographic sequences" the film became a financial success.


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