Saturday, August 20, 2005
Ingmar Bergman is a cinematic poet. He says things with film that almost make it feel like ... not film. Admittedly, I have only seen one of his other films, Fanny and Alexander. That film was, incidentally, the last feature film he made until Saraband. So it's been 22 years since Bergman has created a film. And Saraband will be his last film, apparently. I'm not as familiar with his work as I should be, but Saraband would be a remarkable swan song for any director.
It's a sequel to Scenes From a Marriage and revisits the characters from that film, Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson), as they meet for the first time in three decades. They were married once, but they have been divorced for many, many years. There is still, however, a sort of affection between them. Marianne comes to visit Johan and arrives in the midst of some family drama involving his son from another marriage, Henrik, and his granddaughter, Karin.
The story of Henrik and Karin makes up most of the story. Henrik's wife, Anna, has died fairly recently, and Henrik is preparing Karin for an audition to join a conservatory and play the cello. Henrik is apparently a very strict teacher, and Karin is becoming more and more frustrated with him. But she feels she cannot leave him, because she is all he has left now that Anna is gone.
This is a quietly intense film that thrives on stillness. The performances are exquisite - as one would expect from Ullmann and Josephson. Börje Ahlstedt is wonderfully intense as Henrik, and gives an immense amount of heart to a character that is difficult to like. The real standout for me was Julia Dufvenius, though. She has a broad range of emotions to play as Karin, and a lot of it is quite showy, actingwise. But I thought nothing was more moving than a scene where she simply lies in bed, listening to her father tell her a story about her mother. She's absolutely still, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her.
I've always been somewhat intimidated by foreign films, especially films by the greats. And I think I've been intimidated by Bergman's films in particular, feeling that I haven't been ready for what they had to say. After seeing Saraband, however, I think I'm going to risk it.