The mood here is a mix of solemnity and sensuality -- the sisters' relationships are by turns abusive, loving, and tormented -- but Bergman's emphasis on deep reds and blacks throughout emphasizes the split between Marie and Karin much too formally. Moreover, the hushed, interior tone fails to generate much drama, and the tension never explodes as it does in a much better Bergman '70s drama, Autumn Sonata. But it has the benefit of some tremendous performances, particularly from Ullmann and Kari Sylwan, who plays the family's indomitable caretaker, Anna. And Sven Nykvist's cinematography, particularly in the exterior shots, have a pastoral, painterly grace.
Continue reading: Cries And Whispers Review
Smiles of a Summer Night follows an ensemble cast through the motions of loving and betraying each other. Fredrik (Gunnar Björnstrand) is married to young Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), who is about his son's age. There were married shortly after his wife died, and have not yet consummated their marriage. This is partly due to him still dreaming of Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck), an actress with whom he had an affair for years (which his wife witnessed), and also due to his current wife not being quite ready for the experience of sex. His son is comically tormented between becoming a part of the clergy and giving into his sinful thoughts, the latter of which their maid continually attempts to influence. Being peers, the maid and wife are also friends despite their differences in life experience. She looks to the maid -- who is treated as part of the family -- for advice; it's understood that she's been around the block a few times.
Continue reading: Smiles Of A Summer Night Review
The premise of Darkly is possibly Bergman's richest setup despite its simplicity. A small family (dad, daughter, son, daughter's husband) vacation on a remote and lonely island. Over the course of their stay, we discover that daughter (Harriet Andersson) is insane -- and dad (Gunnar Björnstrand), a professional writer, is using her trauma as subject matter for his books. Naturally, this culminates in a disaster after the daughter and her husband (Max von Sydow) discover dad's journals.
Continue reading: Through A Glass Darkly Review
Predictability reigns for much of the film, because we've seen the story far too often before. A stranger comes to town where the residents are skeptical of outsiders. She proceeds to go out of her way to ingratiate herself, they finally accept her, and then show their true colors against her of what they fear to inflict on one another due to extended co-habitation. The dysfunction turns into a gang of all versus one, regardless of any normal sense of morality, which they are able to slowly rationalize. On the one hand, the unhurried process through which this evolves respects the fact that nobody changes actions or views over night. But because we know it's going to happen, the path to getting there feels arduous.
Continue reading: Dogville Review
Lars von Trier's peculiar compulsion to humiliate his heroines (and by extension the actresses who play them) has finally crescendoed to a deafening din of indiscriminate, exasperating martyrdom in "Dogville," a daring experiment in heightened performance and minimalist filmmaking that is fatally undermined by the Danish writer-director's conceit as a narrator.
His last four movies ("Breaking the Waves," "The Idiots," "Dancer in the Dark" and now "Dogville") have all dealt largely with the psychological (and sometimes physical) torture of vulnerable female protagonists. While his storytelling and cinematic style are almost always compelling, he's never seemed so arbitrary in his sadism than in this allegory of a beautiful, 1930s flapper fugitive hiding from the mob in a ragged, remote, austere Colorado mountain hamlet, where the tiny populace goes from distrustful to accepting to maliciously cruel on little more than von Trier's say-so.
Played with discernible dedication by Nicole Kidman, Grace is a porcelain enigma of self-flagellation so determined to escape some kind of shadowy past that, in exchange for the skeptical township's shelter, she agrees to indentured servitude -- doing handy work, favors and manual labor one hour a day in each of the seven households. She gradually comes earn the friendship of all -- even those most reluctant to accept her.
Continue reading: Dogville Review