A scene from Persona projected on the studio wall

This season is shaped by muted Bergman films projected on the wall in the hour of the wolf. I can’t shake the first six minutes of The Silence: a bored woman lounges and sweats in a stuffy train car. Another woman coughs and moans, suffering a mysterious illness. A boy watches a violent world of military tanks, harsh sunlight, and factories speed past the window. The scene is silent except for breathing and the hum of the rails, and the whole thing feels like a blurred childhood memory.

Or the scene in Persona when an actress retreats from society as a response to the violence of the evening news and a world she no longer understands. “But you can refuse to move, refuse to talk, so that you don’t have to lie,” she says. “You can shut yourself in. Then you needn’t play any parts or make wrong gestures. Or so you thought. But reality is diabolical. Your hiding place isn’t watertight. Life trickles in from the outside.”

More people die during the black and blue hours just before dawn than any other time, disappearing in car crashes, heart attacks, overdoses, and suicides. They call it the hour of the wolf. In his 1968 film of the same name, Bergman describes these in-between hours as the time “when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fears, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. But the hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.” Our dark hours may be unnerving, but they can bring new life if we face them.

I wonder if living on this remote island so far from home is a way of retreating from the world or better understanding it.

Ingmar Bergman: The Silence (1963), Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968).

Each day in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these uneasy times into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.

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