Listening to Ingmar Bergman's Monsters

Horror Music, Mutes, and Acoustical Beings in Persona and Hour of the Wolf


  • Alexis Luko Carleton University



Ingmar Bergman, film, music, horror, mute


Many of Ingmar Bergman’s films are indebted to the horror genre through topics that explore physical and psychological torture, mutilation, illness, murder, sexual taboos, dream, psychoanalysis, madness, and the supernatural. These emblematic horror tropes are reinforced with close-ups of expressive mouths and eyes and a masterful manipulation of shadow and light, helping to create an aesthetic that is at once intimate and haunting. There is a third plane, an aural one, on which Bergman intertwines music, a rich palette of sound effects, deathly silence, and blood-chilling screams. This paper focuses on the significance of music and the voice (or the lack thereof) in Bergman’s soundtracks and expands ideas put forward by Julia Kristeva about the “abject” and by Michel Chion pertaining to the omniscient and bodiless acousmêtres or “acoustical beings” and mutes of film. This article examines mutes and acousmêtres in Persona and Hour of the Wolf, and how the quality of their voices or, indeed, their silence, aids them in articulating their identities and manipulating and tyrannizing those around them. Bergman’s characters threaten to destabilize the narrative if and when they find their bodies and/or voices, and thus maintain an ominous power as they straddle diegetic and non-diegetic aural space.

Author Biography

Alexis Luko, Carleton University

Alexis Luko is an Assistant Professor of Music at Carleton University in the School for Studies in Art and Culture and the College of the Humanities. She holds a Ph.D. in musicology from McGill University and specializes in music of the Renaissance, early music analysis, opera, film music, and the history of music theory. Prior to arriving at Carleton, she worked as Visiting Assistant Professor at the Eastman School of Music and the College Music Department at the University of Rochester.


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How to Cite

Luko, A. (2015). Listening to Ingmar Bergman’s Monsters: Horror Music, Mutes, and Acoustical Beings in Persona and Hour of the Wolf. Journal of Film Music, 6(1), 5–30.