THE SILENCE (aka Tystnaden/1963). Director: Ingmar Bergman.
Two women who appear to be sisters are traveling in Europe with the ten-year-old son of one of them when they stop in a rather dismal little town, Timoka, where one, Ester (Ingrid Thulin), becomes ill. As Ester becomes increasingly overwrought and fears dying alone, Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) goes out of the hotel and finds a man to have sex with, and little Johan (Jorgen Lindstrom) makes his own merriment with a friendly old man and some dwarfs. This is probably fraught with symbolism and deep meaning -- maybe -- but it comes off more as an almost comically underwritten mood piece and little else. Ester has been described as a "repressed lesbian" in several reviews, probably because of the scene where she seems to come on to her sister (similar to scenes in the later Cries and Whispers) but it comes off less as lesbianism or incest than just a kind of mock eroticism-without-a-point, thrown in because it turns Bergman on. Thanks to Sven Nykvist's photography, the film is full of a grim atmosphere, as well as arresting images and faces, as well as the usual fine acting -- if only Bergman had given the players a screenplay that was worthy of their mettle.
Verdict: Half-baked in Timoka. **.