*Bergman *1963 *96m*Sweden
The final of the trilogy. It is about the breakdown of human relationships in the absence of a source of values. Chaos results when they are left at the mercy of the sea of shifting human passions, in the absence of a compass, internal or external. If the first film is about the longing for an anchor, the second is about anguish at its apparent non-existence. In this one, the subject is not even referred to and the silence of god leads to a silence between men. It is a world at war, or preparing for one, a silence of meaningless sounds in a language not understood, a movement towards chaos.
Sisters Anna and Ester and Anna’s ten-year-old son Johann travel through a strife stricken country whose language they don’t know. The elder Ester is seriously ill and confined to her hotel room, as she drinks and smokes and types (being a translater). The beautiful Anna defiantly goes out, and her excursions result in physical encounters with a man she picks up, espied first by Johann in his wanderings through the hotel corridors and finally under the full gaze of Ester. These erotic passages resulted in the unexpected box-office success of an otherwise sparse and difficult film. The love hate relationship culminates in the younger sister departing with her son, leaving the elder to die.
It’s a largely non-verbal film and most of the communication is perforce through sign language. The backdrop is of a world dissolving. A train with a cargo of tanks. People throng into small groups in the streets and cafes and scatter in confusion, as though waiting for a catastrophe. A tank rumbles noisily into the street below Ester’s room, rattling and whining. The only stabilizing element seems to be a troop of dwarves staying in the same hotel, as they amuse themselves with card games, or good naturedly amuse Johann with their antics. The adventures (peeing in the corridor, shooting people with his toy gun, gazing in puzzlement at a painting of a nymph in the process of ravishment) and observations of the child left to his own devices as he wanders around in the hotel are a vantage point to the adult universe, and the midgets serve as a half way house, sharing the child-world from an adult platform. The dwarfs represent a privileged position, a degree of remove. Another is the elderly attendant who tenderly ministers to the needs of the ailing Ester.