Ingmar Bergman is famous for his films addressing man's (and his own) estrangement from God. The Seventh Seal, for example, raises questions about God's goodness in the face of death and evil, Winter Light depicts a clergyman's loss of faith due in large measure to his sterile service to a God who does not speak, and The Silence is a bleak, stark examination of modern secular man's alienation from himself and others, the utter emptiness of his life, and, most of all, his total loneliness. All three films, but especially the last, drive home the same simple Sartrean message in quiet, somber voice: In a world without God man is forlorn - he is in despair.
For Bergman, raised in a Lutheran parsonage by devout parents, God doesn't exist, but His non-existence is not something the film-maker celebrates. Rather it's a cause of great disquiet and anguish. Every scene in The Silence stresses our alienation and isolation from each other. We are aliens in a foreign country, we don't speak the same language, we don't share the same purposes, we harbor bitterness and resentments, and, as a result, we are miserable, alone, and emotionally barren. In the absence of God our lives, in Bergman's telling, are boring, empty, tedious and bleak. They are a darkness relieved only by momentary sparks of joyless and tawdry pleasure.
These films are not for children (This is especially true of The Silence which is sexually explicit), but they are most assuredly for thinking adults, especially Christians and agnostics, and for the same reason: They tease out in artful metaphor the existential predicament of contemporary man without God and reveal the fraudulence of modern materialism's charming but treacherous promise to lead us to earthly contentment. Bergman's films confront the viewer with the uncomfortable truth that where materialism actually leads is straight into an abyss of hopelessness and meaninglessness.
Sadly, although Bergman was able to brilliantly diagnose the human condition and translate it onto the screen, he was unable, as far as I know, to bring himself to accept the only remedy for that condition that works. Bergman died last year at the age of 89.RLC