The second part of the director’s Silence of God trilogy, which began with Through a Glass Darkly and concludes with The Silence, follows a rural priest with a dwindling congregation as he tackles both an existential and a spiritual crisis.
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A sublimely austere film about the exquisitely unbearable state of being, with the impossibility of a fatherly god made manifest in robotic religious procedure and inevitable crises of faith. The deftness and delicacy of how these conflicts are played out is magnificently achieved through the most sombre of filmic means, finding a redemption in a kind of compassion if not love and certainly no resolution. Superb.
Bergman is his characters. His crowds do not consist of people, but masses: they aren't individuals until they scream “I” and when they do they paint themselves as uncertain kings, with no followers other than themselves. Their loneliness reigns over small deserts, yet rarely finds closure. They endow some certainty, which they choose to safeguard in a pillbox. Yet all it takes for its walls to crumble back to sand ↓
This is not, however, a religious film. It's a lot more exploring the real human nature and its possible ''faults''. It raises some universal issues like: ''Am I doing good things because I am a good person (because I have a good character) or because I am afraid of the consequences (because I am weak, fearful)''?
Was skeptical about the premise of this one, as religion is probably the most ridiculous concept man has created, and it shocks me that religion is still such a widespread delusion even today.. anyhow, Bergman certainly creates such authentic dramas with real issues of existence, love, death, suicide. I don't admire his form, but thematically speaking his works may be the best of the accepted classic filmmakers.
Bergman's spirit is much more in tune with Von Sydow's character than Bjornstrand's. If the film were focused on the former I would have been more keen to accept it, but as it is, the priest's final insight -although morally sound- seems devoid of any real conviction, which made me think Bergman was being dishonest in a way.
In this beautiful drama class, Bergman shows us how to shoot up close monologues with perfection. With the choking presence of a suffering Jesus in every stage of this faithless drama, we are doomed to enter this personal crisis in the middle of an upcoming war: and we just watch, perplexed with how touching the end of things can be.
One of my favorite Bergman. Max von Sydow is tormented by the possibility of nuclear war. I can relate. Me too. Conventional war is also dreadful and really bothers me. But I don't waste my time naively asking a useless clergyman for guidance. I just watch a good film and try not to think about how horrible humanity is.