A small-town girl is seduced by big-city life. The nature of the seduction is twofold, her mother runs a posh beauty salon next to a theater, a young would-be actor is the mother’s lover, his character is peculiarly evoked in scenes with later consequences for Mulligan’s The Rat Race and Krish’s The Man Who Had Power Over Women.
It’s possible to see curious relationships with Wood’s Our Town and Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons that are probably fortuitous. The essence of the action is the analysis, there is the sad fact as well that the girl’s real mother draws her away to the false realm she has constructed to dominate the young.
The film was not gratefully received, according to reports, though it is in every respect a work of Bergman’s from the very first.
Det regnar på vår kärlek
It rains on our love, it really does, but society is not the world and has no love for lovers.
Something looks out for them nonetheless in their innocence, plays the defense attorney in court, and gives them an umbrella (cf. Monicelli’s Risate di Gioia).
An American style might be discerned in all this, Time Out Film Guide preferred to see “a playful but rather ill-advised blend of rainswept miserabilism and laborious whimsy,” appealing the sentence as it were.
The Mozartean music-box tune has its avatars, the world or society is demonstrated for the camera, standing as it does in place of the audience.
Skepp till India land
Paul Newman analyzed this work thoroughly in Harry and Son, and that is really sufficient.
Except to say that, pace Time Out Film Guide, it is a major work of art (obviously competent, to say the least) on a theme of blind salvage and first sight of the whore and variety artiste, whom after all one transports (Ship to India), a load off.
The material goes importantly into Home Port and Night of a Clown and Through a Glass Darkly, etc.
Musik i Mörker
A theme very close to Sjöberg’s Torment, for which Bergman wrote the screenplay.
The little white dog and the girl in the goldfish bowl are Ingrid (Mai Zetterling), the surreal presentation rests on the blindness motif as scarification. Tennessee Williams’ Man of the Future (The Glass Menagerie) makes his entrance and departs, having defined his position.
Bosley Crowther saw it in 1963 and called it “juvenilia”. Bergman’s remarks are simply Hitchcockian crumb-to-crumpet mystification. Truffaut admired it.
Bengt (Birger Malmsten) is a musician struck blind on the firing line, to him Ingrid, also a swindle at the Hotel Ritz, dangerous trains and a cartoon adversary.
Music in Darkness is a literal translation of the title.
The title is somewhat misleading in English, Port O’ Call, critics have always tried to reorder the screenplay along lines that are not indicated. The drama is simple with a Sternbergian simplicity. There is a much put-upon leading lady and a sailor who finally eats his spinach.
The girl gets described as a “prostitute” in one review, she only stays out late with her friends from millinery school because of her quarreling parents, they lock her out, she runs away with a boy, they send her to the reformatory.
Released, she meets a nice young fellow whose parents object, she jumps in the bay.
Which is where the sailor comes in. Everywhere the dribs and drabs of a sordid, confined late adolescence. The girl’s chum dies of a secretive abortion, the sailor is disheartened over her past, he wakes up after a drunken night to take her away.
Passage to Antwerp on a family man’s cargo ship, no, they decide to stay and make a fight of it.
There is a wonderful joke earlier on in the literal fight scene. The sailor and the girl are out at the movies (laughing helplessly at a comedy like Sturges’ Sullivan), walking home they’re beset by mockers from the factory where she works. The sailor and three men square off away from the street, remove their topcoats, prepare to fight. The big man of the three moves slowly to take a position behind the sailor, he leans his elbow on a pile of crates and truck that collapses with a crash.
The Devil’s Wanton
The old professor of mathematics descends into the smoky pit of a film studio. He’s just out of the mental hospital.
Martin, his student, is directing a film on a noisy set. The professor has an idea for a film about the Devil seizing Earth.
Thomas, a writer, has an ideal protagonist, Brigitta, a prostitute he has interviewed for an article, her fiancé gets most of the money.
Thomas is depressed and drunken, he tries to kill himself and his wife Sofi, she bashes him over the head with a bottle. Brigitta gives up her illegitimate child to her fiancé Peter for safekeeping, he drowns it without telling her.
Thomas and Brigitta fall in together, take attic lodgings, and view a silent film on a hand-cranked projector he was given as a boy (man in a cold room invaded by cop and robber, all three frighted by death and devil leap out the windows).
The baby’s corpse is found, Peter seizes Brigitta to ensure her silence. He puts her back on the game, she kills herself.
Thomas returns to Sofi. Martin tells the old professor that such a film would be impossible to make.
Just at this time in Hollywood they were filming the Williams-Berneis screenplay of The Glass Menagerie (dir. Irving Rapper) with its charming story of a trip to the isles, borrowed and extended from It’s a Wonderful Life (dir. Frank Capra).
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “Scandinavian wallow, with heavy expressionism and low-life themes,” citing John Gillett of the Monthly Film Bulletin, “all the paraphernalia associated with Scandinavian angst.”
Later on it’s Illicit Interlude and Summer with Monika, but this is the primary document.
A ballerina’s abortion from a married lieutenant, her marriage to an assistant lecturer recently tied to a grieving widow whose analyst tries to probe her, then a third girl in the ballet class reappears as a tribade who also would like to probe the widow.
Despair, suicide and murder pass like a dream, the happy couple in their train compartment return to Stockholm (by way of ruined Germany) from honeymooning in Italy where the lecturer has found an ancient coin stamped with Arethusa, whose legend he recounts.
A trick to represent a second-rate orchestra and conductor playing Beethoven, and no worse in its way than Preston Sturges hatching Unfaithfully Yours for the benefit of suffering audiences.
You would like to kill that fiddle-player several desks down, but his miserable story entails a ferne Geliebte who also has suffered, and there are those who do not know of such things, it’s Beethoven after all, the old masters had it no better than we, Mendelssohn says.
And when all’s said and done, a sort of Apu trilogy emerges out of the disaster, which isn’t quite what Bergman intended, though it completes the comic effect.
Material from his previous film, Thirst, is reconstituted for parody’s sake. Victor Sjöström plays the conductor.
Sånt händer inte här
Refugees from Communist Liquidatzia are sought by that nation’s spies and secret police in Sweden, there is a list of infiltrators in the hands of agent Atkä Natas, whose wife tries to kill him.
The thrust of the argument is simply to equate Nazis and Communists as a rule of thumb, this is done explicitly with reference to Hitler and otherwise in the torture scenes, which usually include a loud radio (neighbors complain).
The Hitchcockism is very pronounced and formidable, there are elements of American films as well, even a Donald Duck cartoon at a Stockholm theater, behind the screen a group of refugees hold a meeting and turn up an informer.
There is a certain resemblance to Skepp till India land in several aspects, the wife’s lover (a police detective) and the husband’s suicide from a high place.
The car chase, with comical interludes of scampering or dazzled pedestrians, and the detective at the wheel still groggy from a shellacking, is noteworthy.
The Swedes are “Sunday people”, a Liquidatzian bigwig explains, they’ll say nothing until it’s too late, and then only “this can’t happen here”, the title.
All of the arts are difficult, the male ballet dancer is exposed, avertissement.
“Dress rehearsal: Swan Lake, Petrushka [Coppelia].”
Summer Interlude (Summer Fun).
Old times, Paris, the elevator, le départ.
Waiting Women, Secrets of Women, nothing secret about it at all.
The editing is considerable, almost constant, a succession of images always in place.
Summer with Monika
Tangential to Fängelse four years earlier, a joke in It’s a Wonderful Life is explicitly the basis of this film (cp. the variant in A Streetcar Named Desire). Sunrise is the embarkation for Cythera.
One follows the girl in this version, and what is more, she is distinctly identified with the fair city (Stockholm). The adventure begins and ends with her frivolity, but now there is a child named June and called Monika.
A rival draws first blood in town, attacks and is repulsed at the far point of bliss, moves in on the return.
First sight of the infant is varied in Gilbert’s Alfie. A close-up of Monika states for the benefit of Gunnar Fischer’s camera Beckett’s “classical bitch’s eye”. A complicated set of themes (he works in a glass-and-porcelain shop, she for a greengrocer, with attendant family histories and characterizations) related to Splendor in the Grass is worked out in the structure of Annie Hall, to the point.
The Naked Night
The Baudelairean title is Night of a Clown (Sawdust and Tinsel). A more complete analysis than it would be possible to imagine under any circumstances whatsoever was made by Ozu in his transposition of Bergman’s film from a Swedish traveling circus to an itinerant Kabuki troupe as Floating Weeds.
Bergman himself is the Swedish Fellini here, and there is an excellent score by Blomdahl. The Times Film Co. print is reportedly attenuated but the duping of the first reel suggests, perhaps as the result of damage, Godard’s Les Carabiniers in the flashback of Alma “bathing with the regiment” (a similar photographic effect, if it is one, is also a flashback in Hour of the Wolf).
The circus wagon at the opening returns in The Seventh Seal along with much other material also occurring in The Magician. This is among the least understood and most brilliant of Bergman’s films, the clown Frost strips to his skivvies and carries his wife nude but for a fringe of seaweed, shielding her with his body from the laughing artillerymen. He falls twice like Christ with his blonde burden on the steep, rocky road to the big top.
A Lesson in Love
A subtly conceived and constructed film in which all the details build slowly to the comic revelation that a mistress is not a husband’s cordial but a Mickey Finn from an old rival to restore the status quo ante.
Down the draft and see. “A stunning comedy in the style of Lubitsch,” says Truffaut.
A dream of women, their fancy.
Crowther was so convinced it was lesser Bergman that he headlined his New York Times review “Lesser Bergman”, and then explained how far he had misunderstood the film.
A Stockholm fashion photographer who runs her studio with a fat male partner and has men take the shots for her, she directs.
One of her models, young and slim.
The photographer is dying for her married lover in Göteborg. The model goes with her on a photo shoot, defying her fiancé.
An aged consul showers the model with gifts and is rebuked by his daughter, the wife interrupts her husband’s tryst.
Stockholm, photo shoot. The model and her fiancé are reconciled by the photographer, who stares bored and resentful as the camera dollies in to a close-up.
The director, Ingmar Bergman, walks a poodle through a scene like Hitchcock. “A comedy tinged with bitterness” (Truffaut).
Smiles of a Summer Night
Counselor Egerman must render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.
These are, respectively, a wife above suspicion and a chaste bride (the second and first smiles).
To himself belongs the actress Désirée, an unacknowledged legislator.
Bergman proves that, since Renoir wasn’t known in Sweden, he had to be invented.
The influence of Hollywood is paramount. A gesture early on reveals Tartuffe.
Countess Armfeldt’s wine later figures in The Rite.
Rosenbaum’s piece in the New York Times (August 4th, 2007) was answered according to its folly by Godard in Cahiers du Cinéma (July, 1958).
The night effect in the royal bedchamber is one of the finest and most beautiful in films.
The Seventh Seal
Bergman’s version of a joke, how did Picasso paint his “family of saltimbanques”? By painting out everything that didn’t look like a saltimbanque, that’s how.
The Naked Night, Smiles of a Summer Night, Wild Strawberries, The Magician, Virgin Spring, Hour of the Wolf, The Rite, The Magic Flute, Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander, etc., exhibit the theme in action, form and structure, each to a varied extent.
The protagonist had poetry and spirituality in his youth, these cost him his bride. He thereby learned to forgive, and this cost him his wife. He therefore acquired a sense of justice, and this has left him in the situation of the film, “a dead man”.
The sacrifice of Isaac is indicated. His true bride is Wisdom (hat, ring and scroll at the Lund ceremony).
The visible, apparent structure is adduced from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which thus is more or less the basis of Autumn Sonata.
Brink of Life
So Close to Life
“Twenty-four hours in a maternity ward,” is how Truffaut puts it, beginning and ending with the frosted glass doors and describing, in terms shortly to be used by John Osborne in Luther, what it means to make a representation on film of Milton’s sonnet, “When I consider”.
The “purity of line” and “astounding simplicity” (Truffaut) are played against the general view thoughtfully developed by Godard, and are an end in themselves. Background jokes sparsely interlard or farce the proceedings. “My mother had a miscarriage before I was born,” says one patient to cheer up another, and a nurse enters with a tray at the rear doors, goes off right, followed into the scene by the head nurse.
“The doctors are coming,” a nurse announces to the ward. Bergman cuts to two nurses walking up a corridor away from the camera. At the far end, the doctors emerge and part the nurses, before entering a doorway on the right.
The resemblance to a women’s prison drama is overridden, though the screenwriter had previously written one (and subsequently wrote Virgin Spring), by the sense of a prisoner of war film, and finally soldiers in the field or field hospital.
The situation has been dramatized in a way consistent with its period, there are two surprises carefully prepared. Poe is illustrative of the literary mind dead and buried in the waste land, miraculously alive and summoned to a command performance (thus the Christian allegory, akin to Capra’s treatment). The specific condition of the actor is invoked, however, in the magician’s doppelgänger, whose name is Johan Spegel.
Nabokov tells off the rube somewhere who sees the play and afterward peeks behind the scenes “to see how it was done.” Vogler’s Magnetic Health Theatre is akin to the circus in The Naked Night, it is fallen among high city officials and coachmen somewhere in the provinces. The latter would like to crush the magician’s face (Ansiktet) for the pleasure of erasing it, the former want to see how the trick is done.
Shaw explains, “It is true that if a man goes into the National Gallery, and raises the objection that all these pretended figures and landscapes and interiors are nothing but canvas and colored clay, there is nothing for it but to conduct him to the entrance and shoot him gently over the balustrade into the prosaic street. All the same, the more completely a painter can make us overlook that objection the better.” Bergman’s performers go to any lengths in this emergency to say there is no magic, his magician finally begs a coin.
“Levitation” by wires, and mesmerism by “animal magnetism”, and visions by magic lantern, cannot be explained, but that is what these bumpkins in white tie fear most, the inexplicable.
The romantic shafts fly freely, Tubal plies a love potion like a foot in the door held open, the councillor’s wife sings an aria to the magician, whose wife would as soon settle down with the medical councillor Vergerus. The magician rises from the dead to put the fear of God into Vergerus, who has just fulfilled a wish by performing an autopsy on him (“Nothing extraordinary,” the medical councillor reports). Griswold’s Poe is a floundering substitute for the author of several works related to Ansiktet.
A creaking lamp is left behind for the Royal Castle.
A highly complex allegory, of circular import or properly spiral, on I Corinthians 15:56-57, along the lines of a “medieval ballad”, as Bergman tells us.
“The sting of death is sin,” slugabed Karin is assaulted by goatherds, “and the strength of sin is the law,” the prosperous farmer her father is obliged to wield it. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The sacrifice is accomplished, the Lord will deal out judgment and build his New Jerusalem.
Christ is he who “leads the dance and breaks the sabbath”, the vengeance is a ritual offering, the purpose and meaning is the Church that is founded upon the living water.
The secondary theme associated with Odin expresses the bondage in Egypt, the plague of toads, a retrogressive movement (the troll at the river ford).
In contrast to this latter, the roving scholar who has seen the great cathedrals.
Crowther noted the apparent simplicity, and thought the ending was beneath the director.
The opening scene is a reflection of De Sica’s great aria for the kitchen maid at dawn in Umberto D., like one of Eliot’s preludes. What Bergman owes to Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and Huston (in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), he pays to Peckinpah (The Ballad of Cable Hogue), Boorman (Deliverance), and again to Huston (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean).
The Devil’s Eye
Satan drags Don Juan and his manservant Pablo up from Hell to seduce the virtuous daughter of a pastor, but she marries her agronomist in spite of them.
The three main points of articulation are her mother’s pity for her own aloof husband in the face of Pablo’s line from Hell, the daughter’s pity for Don Juan in the face of his self-confessed degradation (her fiancé is another consideration), and the stye in Satan’s eye alleviated by the daughter’s lie on her wedding night, an unavowed kiss passed between them.
Through a Glass Darkly
Inspiration, in a word. It comes as to Van Gogh famously, and to Joan of Arc. Not to mention Christopher Smart.
Polanski is the big inheritor of all this, also (in A Woman Under the Influence) Cassavetes.
A Swedish pastor, the split and the rupture (Thornton Wilder, Samuel Beckett) against which one is to stand, or not.
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
Persona is deeply implicated, Lermontov lightly, also Kubrick (The Shining). The stage machinery is from Cymbeline.
För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor
It takes Bergman all the length of his film to establish the musician in the house of the Muses and the critic precisely nowhere, which gives him time to abundantly see the critic shat upon (De Düva), blown up and wearing a dress.
Andrew Sarris’s review in the Village Voice is one of the funniest yowls of pain ever recorded, “Bergman’s technique has never been clumsier and heavier... adds a new dimension to boredom... the most depressingly inept mise-en-scene ever perpetrated by an allegedly major director... the acting is archly, sadistically satiric with Jarl Kulle as the critic giving the worst performance in the history of the cinema.”
And so forth, a priceless treasure.
An influence on Woody Allen and Ken Russell might easily be inferred.
The title is usually shortened in English to All These Women.
A.H. Weiler, a very reliable entertainer, also disparaged Kulle’s performance (New York Times), which is, alas, a thing of genius.
The problem is from Chekhov’s The Sea Gull, prefiguring the confessional reality talk show on TV, analyzed with exhaustive precision and (as in Wild Strawberries) prescribing to the physician. “Say, ‘nothing’,” says the nurse, bidding the actress receive inspiration.
Crowther recognized the boy from The Silence during the overture, which seems designed to resume the earlier film and also just anticipates a certain effect in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The actress freezes as Electra, helpless with an urge to laugh. In the clinic afterwards, she listens to Bach on the radio with a face like a darkling planet. Vietnam is on the TV news, the doctor sympathizes with “the hopeless dream of being, not seeming.”
The actress goes to stay with the nurse, by the sea. “I was never real to him,” the nurse says of her lover, echoing Philpot the maid in The Pumpkin Eater (“it’s so warm here. Real. You know, so real. I’ve never felt such a sense of reality, as there is here”). The actress hieratically posed hears the nurse’s sunny sex story with its rainy ending, and writes to the doctor about this interesting study, while the nurse has a dream of the actress entering her room and enfolding the nurse’s cropped hair with her long locks (a dream infinitely beyond the patented surrealism of the nightmare in Wild Strawberries). The nurse reads the letter, and comically re-enacts her ineptitude in a kind of tic, wearing a bathing suit on the patio in a long static take, putting her drink down on her hat, picking up her hat, spilling the drink and breaking the glass, picking up the shards. The actress enters, one shard remains, she hurts her foot, they look at each other and the film breaks, establishing with images from the overture the nature of the conflict.
They argue and fight, the actress lights lamps that provide illumination and not shadow or luster, she examines a photograph of Nazi soldiers rounding up women and children. Her husband arrives, and speaks to the nurse as his wife. Now the nurse addresses the actress in a number repeated like music or Beckett, “What are you hiding under your hand? It’s the picture of your child, that you tore up.” The fruitless æstheticism of the actress is exposed. “You wanted a dead child.” The dream is seen again, to clarify the actress’s mouth on the nurse’s neck, an image from Edvard Munch.
A double portrait of the two women as one face confirms the two-sided sterility also seen in Autumn Sonata and Arthur Miller’s The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, but there is the diagnosis, and a note from O’Neill, and Philippe Halsman’s L’Acte créateur (Cocteau and a model in a picture frame supported by a muscular torso, his arm reaches around to paint her face with a brush).
Hour of the Wolf
A film noir on the death of an artist, a surreal exposition of his vocation, out of Vampyr by way of The Magician, with an element of Kafka’s The Castle.
Van Gogh’s life is partially adduced, though the visions are more in the line of Goya (the old woman who doffs her hat and her face with it comes from Alexeieff & Parker’s Night on Bald Mountain). Heerbrand, who “might be homosexual”, and who says, “I turn souls inside out”, might be a glancing blow at Dr. Gachet. The Bird Man is perhaps from Ernst.
Images of white linen prepare the entrance of the old woman, who knows where the artist keeps his sketches and diary, which his pregnant wife reads and later transmits to the author of this film (a Borgesian device). The Baron invites the couple to dinner, and the artist’s muse appears to him on the beach with a warning about being watched (the Baron later claims she’s his mistress), and a threat that “all the springs will dry up.”
The artist knocks down importunate Heerbrand, who doesn’t forget the affront and regards it as unprovoked.
The title refers to the weakest hour of the day, just before dawn, like the “wolf-tone” of acoustics. The artist’s guilt is expressed in more dramatic terms than Nemerov’s poem, “The Remorse for Time” (“Tormented most by the remorse for time, / Only for time, the mind speaks of that boy / (he did no wrong, then why had he to die?) / Falling asleep on the current of the stars / Which even then washed him away past pardon”), rather following the suggestion of Beckett’s All Fall Down, filmed in high contrast with a definitive expression.
The old harlot directs the artist to the muse elsewhere in the castle. Birds multiply out of Hitchcock, among them the lordly Bird Man, the Baron climbs the walls and walks on the ceiling like Fred Astaire, out of jealousy. Mr. Kreisler plays Bach on the harpsichord, the old woman removes her face and plops her eyeballs into two water glasses, the artist suffers himself to be made-up for the encounter, and there is the muse (the object of his self-described “compulsion”) inert beneath a white sheet, he runs his hand slowly over her nude form, she awakens laughing, the others in the castle are watching. “The limit... has been reached, the glass has been shattered,” says the artist with his makeup dripping (cp. Cul-de-sac, The Tenant, Death in Venice). “What will the splinters reflect?”
All that remains is his extinction at the hands of the others, beginning with Heerbrand, who strikes the first blow beside a stream.
The artist’s wife tells the story to the camera at first and last, after a credit sequence with background noises of the film studio just before shooting starts.
The castle folk at dinner have the vulgarity of the careless rich, repellent to the artist, and present a puppet show of The Magic Flute with a live tiny actor.
Doctor Zhivago (dir. David Lean) for half the tenor and a good deal of the imagery, Les Carabiniers (dir. Jean-Luc Godard) for the speed and the rest.
A straightforward selection of shots representing a history (“a history of representations,” Beckett said of Hume).
War is a flood, there are those who are in it (Hitchcock’s Lifeboat) and those who are dead.
There is a persistent critical hallucination to the effect that nary a shot is fired, yet Bergman films the shelling or bombing of the farm in an extensive scene.
The premise is a dream Jan (Max von Sydow) has before the alarm clock rings at the start of the film, he and Eva are back in the orchestra, everything since then has been a nightmare (the dream says). Eva (Liv Ullmann) refers to this in her oft-cited opinion that the events portrayed in the film are “someone else’s dream”.
Bergman’s screenplay for Sjöberg’s Hets (Torment) is an early indication of the theme.
The unique economy of Les Riens is in the ménage ā trois (which Bergman tells us represents himself). The man of means, his actress wife, the actor. They therefore (as he also points out) not only perform the ritual or rite but constitute its elements, broadly speaking.
To them a mysterious figure. Theatrical agent conning their portfolio with a magnifying glass, tax collector? Judge for an obscenity ruling.
The rite borrows the nomenclature of Dionysiac ritual to give a literary and pictorial image of the necessary events that constitute drama or art, “the poet and his secret wish” (Nemerov).
The beauty of the writing cannot be observed in English subtitles as yet, perhaps, but the construction of a television play comparable to Osborne or Pinter or Stoppard is evident.
The troupe suffer all manner of upheaval and discomfort in the pressure of scrutiny, and finally give a private performance at the judge’s request in his office. The shock kills him, they are fined on the original charge and withdraw into exile. The director plays a priest who hears the judge’s confession.
Truffaut, “a film of extreme inner violence, The Rite shows us three artists executing a judge—in other words, a critic. It is curious, then, that the press chose to ignore this film.” The comparison is to För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor, with its evocation of Stravinsky’s Renard.
A million miles on Wild Strawberries, because it finally recognizes the shame of forgiveness, the nothingness that is there, the abyss.
And that’s not all, folks. It doesn’t care, the superficialities appertaining to the great divide exist, all right, Bergman zooms past them in the last shot, slowly, to what?
The end of the thing, except as some thing out of Geulincx, an occasion (Scenes from a Marriage).
The ending is a distinction from Fellini’s La Strada.
The Passion of Anna.
The satire was lost on critics, who saw a perfect happy household wanting in nothing whatsoever, not even its own inane pop song running across the Hoovered carpet, the Bergman ideal.
The mother-in-law dies, it’s just a joke to hubby, wifey weeps in the perfectly realized hospital scene and is immediately comforted by the missing element, the utz, the grain of salt or what have you.
In this guise, he’s a Yankee archæologist at a nearby dig. A centuries-old church calls him in for its reconsecration, they’ve found a Virgin and Child carved in wood but infested with centuries-old larvæ of an extinct species.
The pre-war hit “My Sister and I” makes a tacit accompaniment at Drummond House, London.
The specific comparison for style is Losey’s The Romantic Englishwoman, which is directly opposed in theme.
This kind of confrontation is rather like something you would find in O’Neill, a faintly monstrous echo of the Norsemen meeting a Jew from just outside Berlin during the catastrophe that cost his family.
A love affair (Bergman), “a soap opera not up to his usual standard” (various critics including Ebert, who could not see what Nazis had to do with such nice people).
Cries and Whispers
Here, a splendid satirical boffo smash melding Ibsen and Strindberg and Chekhov for the better illumination of each, throwing off Matisse reds and hysterias as a by-product, and incidentally repaying Fellini by serving as a model for City of Women.
The lyre dawns, a statue outside. Clocks tick, ornamented with putti. Agnes is dying, she cannot leave her mother (whose surrogate is Anna, the servant whose young daughter has died). Maria is an abandoned wife, Karin a diplomat’s wife. Three sisters...
Sven Nykvist has described the difficulties of filming this meticulous color composition. “Every joke describes the death of an emotion,” it has been said.
“So they hush, the cries and whispers,” with ultimate reference (reportedly) to the Andante of Mozart’s 21st piano concerto.
Scenes from a Marriage
It’s a simple enough joke, really. Johan flies to Paris with a mistress, Marianne weds an “orgasm monster”, that’s how marriage seems to them, how Bergman represents it surrealistically, in quite realistic close-ups and medium shots, against all odds, in the theatrical rescension.
The Magic Flute
A late remembrance of the war, half Parsifal, half comic book, all Bergman. It comes with its own audience to make an ass of Dave Kehr (“appealingly conventional”).
This will have to do for an idea of The Rake’s Progress in Stockholm, which Stravinsky saw and said was “perfect”.
Face to Face
There are such things as Juliet of the Spirits and Broken Blossoms, so we know they exist, as they do here. The poor wretch is a sort of black hole destroying galaxies in this preparatory sketch for Fanny and Alexander. The vision at the end of Wild Strawberries (of which this is an analytical remake as well) comes to her rescue, once having identified the problem.
Sven Nykvist’s pictures are extraordinarily helpful in blank spaces.
The Serpent’s Egg
The nominal structure has the joking inevitability of The Seventh Seal in another sense, the trapeze act ceases and therefore is consigned willy-nilly to oblivion as not part of the picture (on the theory that portraiture omits the extraneous). The formal sigh of humorous resignation at once lends objectivity, the dark foyer of a Berlin boarding house in 1923 has an open door in the background where boarders sing and sway at table, a man observes this and swiftly carries a tray of food and beer upstairs along the open staircase and opens a door to reveal a lighted room, its occupant dead, mouth agape.
An unaccustomed sleekness of style is the main effort at establishing the Twenties in the writing and the filming, this opening scene is easily virtuosic, the sinister experiments of Dr. Vergerus are recorded on film but described by him in a way that obscures the simplicity of their purpose, to destroy the maternal instinct, to reduce a man to helplessness, finally by means of a drug to induce a permanent sense of anguish (cp. Thorpe’s The Venetian Affair). These experiments are the basis of a new order ten years hence.
Dr. Mabuse is implied in the call to Inspector Lohmann. Gary Cooper is evoked in David Carradine’s performance. Bergman sets up avatars of Robert Wise (The Sound of Music in the churchyard) and Georg Grosz (at the posh bar later in the film). The Zhivago set with its tram is evocative in just that sense.
Manuela (Liv Ullmann), the cabaret artiste, describes her day job briefly as “import-export”, her landlady Frau Holle says it’s a dubious “church society”, the truth is Manuela’s a prostitute at a whorehouse serving “politicians, managing editors and famous actors”. She’s the ex-wife of the dead man, his brother carried the tray.
The film takes place just before the beer hall putsch in November. Millions and billions are meaningless, currency is soon valued by weight. Max Rosenberg, the man upstairs, has injured his wrist, the act folds, his brother Abel (Carradine) takes up drinking.
Manuela and Abel fall from Frau Holle’s graces and take up residence in an apartment belonging to the St. Anna Klinik, run by Dr. Vergerus. It’s a miserable flat where the sense of being locked-in prevails, Abel gets a job in the Klinik archives transferring centuries-old documents from gray files to yellow, preserving the numeration, locked in a cell from eight to six. Manuela takes a job in a workhouse kitchen. Rumors of the experiments reach Abel, he forces his way to Vergerus, who reveals all. Max was his eager subject, was given the drug and killed himself. The police are pounding on the door, Vergerus utters his prophecy and takes cyanide.
Manuela is dead after an illness, Abel is sent by Inspector Bauer (Gert Froebe) to join the thriving Hollinger Circus, he eludes his police escort and disappears.
Hitchcock’s quick analysis was instantaneously correct, the artist is beset and besieged, Bergman draws the battle lines most clearly then revels in the humor of the situation, why not?
“Grace, not cark.” The familial world of critics (“joined ectoplasmically,” says Nabokov) wants to receive the artist in its bosom, “the feeling is moo-tual”. Helena crawling like a baby expresses this shared wish for a grateful reception.
The artist flees and is pursued, hunted down by frustrated academics ready to flay a subject into manageable proportions. There is that something told by Berlioz at a music festival in the country, seeing a little girl with a sparrow in her hands, at the sight of him she wrung its neck.
Kafka’s “Josephine the Singer or the Mouse Folk”, Eastwood’s Honkytonk Man, Resnais’s Providence. Bergman in exile, after Wild Strawberries and Persona.
Hitchcock walked out of the screening room “to see a movie”, intuitive as Schoenberg “the constructor”.
Aus dem Leben der Marionetten
The complete analysis is by Ken Russell in Crimes of Passion, bar none.
Fanny and Alexander
The edited theatrical release is a trick played on the public by Bergman’s distributors, being a magician he turned it to his own account.
It is certainly a metaphor of World War II.
Jacobi’s horses are Sarastro’s lions, the royal bed of Denmark is the magic one in Smiles of a Summer Night, Oscar’s funeral is the investiture at Lund, every scene demands its analysis from Bergman.
It doesn’t end, it ends in Strindberg’s A Dream Play.
Gunnar Björnstrand in clown makeup for the song from Twelfth Night says everything there is to say about Shakespeare, with a recorder accompanying.
It takes up the music of winter in one of those Stravinskyan coups that seem never to have ceased, and shambles rather quickly through its Dickensian opening number to a garden of forking paths, where it posits a melancholia answered by (what else?) Jewish mysticism.
The rescension by Bergman to accommodate his distributors is in the same proportion as The Magnificent Ambersons, the theatrical release nevertheless describes in symbolic terms a usurpation of drama and a restoration. Gustavus Adolphus is Comedy (or America), Carl is Tragedy (or England, his “fireworks” are Yeats’ gaiety). Oscar is Hamlet’s ghost (decadent democracy).
The full-length film has elements of Russell, much as The Naked Night reflects upon Fellini, who is very much here. The Shining and The Exorcist also are cited. Kubrick repays the compliment with sparse Ligeti in Eyes Wide Shut. After The Serpent’s Egg, Lean’s Doctor Zhivago is indicated.
“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” but Borges’ Lönnrot is answered by “the editor of the Yiddische Zeitung... myopic, an atheist and very shy.” The marked compression of certain exterior shots is a signal of form like a diagram of Cézanne.
The title is a famous wartime song, “My Sister and I”.
After the Rehearsal
For A Dream Play, with reference to Howard Hawks’ Twentieth Century, Elia Kazan perhaps represented at work.
In the Presence of a Clown
The deadly critics thought it was somber and molto Bergman (or minor Bergman), it picks up the Russellian traces of Fanny and Alexander in a full-fledged tribute, with prime reference to The Music Lovers, for here you have in a nutshell the romance of Franz Schubert (dying of syphilis) and the famous prostitute Countess Mizzi Veith, who died a virgin.
Two lunatics in the hospital at Uppsala dream this up, one obsessed with the composer, the other with Mizzi (and this one thinks he’s God), the venture is “a kinodrama in three acts” called Joie d’une Fille de Joie (Glädjeflickans Glädje), “a living talking picture” with a microphone behind the screen like Singin’ in the Rain, it’s 1925.
There is no use describing the village performance in a Temperance Hall where it’s thirty degrees below zero outside, except Bergman’s mother is in the audience (he himself is home in bed, a young boy), it’s Uncle Carl as Schubert, his flapper mistress plays the piano, and so forth. Carl has visions of an enticing Pierrette, hence the title.
Mizzi’s stepfather sells her to the Baron who has bought Schubert’s latest quartet, she leaves the Baron for a student and dies alone for love of the composer, who cannot even kiss her.
Resnais got the joke and made Pas sur la bouche.
“Whatever it may be, moviemaking keeps Carl sane and distracted for a while,” says Stephen Holden of the New York Times. “Perhaps that’s the most we can expect of art.”
Saraband is hardly a schwanengesang nor a peeping work, but a scoring sardonic apocalypse made by refracting Scenes from a Marriage thirty years later through the images of Henrik, Johan’s son, and Henrik’s daughter, Karin. He is a professional musician losing his post as a conductor amidst government changes (and writing a book about the St. John Passion of Bach), she is a cello student who forgoes top university training as a soloist to join a schoolpal in a Munich youth orchestra with Claudio Abbado, followed by “an internship in a German or Austrian orchestra.” Johan and Marianne look on, the crucial strain is from On Golden Pond.
Woody Allen in Melinda and Melinda has a very similar regard for certain romantic comedies or dramas from a neglected area of study, whereas here there is a useful measure of the great dramas about music of which an exacerbation might be Svengali or Citizen Kane.
The writing is of firecracker snap in the prologue, as Marianne fills in the history for the camera (Hour of the Wolf). At least as interesting as the dramatic shifts of perspective are the transitions between them. Henrik goes to see Johan, who is reading Kierkegaard’s Either/Or. Karin and Marianne have two great duets (the film is in ten numbers, each with a pair of actors), the first a raw burlesque and the second played against the figured bass of a letter from Anna, Henrik’s late wife and Karin’s mother.
Two aspects of the mise en scčne present themselves in different guises. Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann give the outward acting their expressive roles require, whereas Börje Ahlstedt and Julia Dufvenius are made to represent a conscious reflection of this, a sustained nuance throughout. Great strides are made in the direction of habituating a digital format to the demands of film, in the end, with television in the middle, but the image is unusable.
The capacity of this simple, elegant way of writing to generate form capable of harboring and analyzing the thorniest of problems, the one addressed in Beckett’s writings on Van Velde, for instance, is certainly quite remarkable, and creates a balance in its liveliness and astuteness with the serene middle shots and minutely graduated camerawork, the structure of a setup is as important as that of a sequence, internal dynamism being the recognized characteristic of each picture as a rule. A strict horizontal in the background entering and leaving the frame is a row of windowpanes in the porch scene, the sort of effect Louis Kahn understood as “holding hands”, in a line that extends to the celebration in Fanny and Alexander, and so forth.