TYSTNADEN brings two sisters into a foreign country whose language they cannot understand. While returning to Sweden Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), together with Anna’s young son Johan (Jörgen Lindström), have to interrupt their trip in the city of Timoka, because Ester feels ill in the oppressive heat of the train. They find a room in a once noble hotel. There a bitter battle ensues between the sisters: Anna feels threatened and dominated by Ester.
In one of the hotel rooms Johan comes upon a troupe of midgets who dress him up as a girl and amuse themselves with him until their leader throws him out. Later Anna goes to a vaudeville show where the midgets are performing. In the audience she observes an uninhibited couple making love. Evidently stimulated by this, she meets a café waiter (Birger Malmsten) and later has a rendezvous with him in the hotel. Ester, who wants to continue their discussion, comes to the room. Anna demonstratively throws herself into the arms of her lover.
In TYSTNADEN Bergman shows a world in which communication and mutual understanding are not possible. Taken in the context of his two previous films, SÅSOM I EN SPEGEL (1960/61) and NATTVARDSGÄSTERNA (1961–63), which Bergman sometimes referred to as his “God and Man trilogy”, this has been interpreted as the silence of God and doubts as to His existence. However, it was primarily Bergman’s depiction of overtly sexual scenes that triggered discussions. The film became a worldwide success.