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Scenes From A Marriage Review

Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage began as a six-part Swedish television program that aired throughout much of Scandinavia in 1973. The series was created at one of those times when Bergman was in something of a creative slump, but in a career of comebacks, Scenes from a Marriage constituted another. The series was such a hit, reports Bergman scholar Peter Cowie, that the one-hour episodes emptied the streets of cities such as Copenhagen during its weekly time slots. American distributors were soon clamoring for a theatrical version for release here, and Bergman responded in 1974 with a trimmed-down, 169-minute edit that went on to win the National Society of Film Critics Award for best picture of its year. In 1977, PBS aired the entire series unedited, and Scenes from a Marriage took its rightful place among Bergman's established masterpieces.

And then it kind of vanished. That's not to say that you couldn't, with some effort, get your hands on a copy of the American release. But Bergman's original vision - the five-hour Scenes - joined the company of fabled films, such as von Stroheim's Greed, that lived a high life in film criticism while going largely unseen by film enthusiasts. Criterion, with its new, three-disc DVD edition of the original TV series, plus the American theatrical version, restores a great film to the shelves.

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The Silence (1963) Review

The Silence would be a fine title for pretty much any Ingmar Bergman movie, but this film truly does earn its moniker, with long stretches of film with no dialogue at all.

The Silence is spare, but not in the desolate wasteland sort of way of many Bergman films. In fact, the movie takes place in a city, mostly within a posh hotel. Two sisters get off a train when one of them, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) is too sick to go on. Her trollop sister Anna (Gunnel Lindblom) checks sis into a hotel, drops off her young son, and spends the hours cruising for men (which she finds). Eventually, Anna and the kid decide to continue on their journey, leaving Ester in the hotel, apparently to die alone.

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Smiles Of A Summer Night Review

It's hard to believe this film was made in 1955. But then again only American films of that time seem to have the handcuffs of absolute purity slapped on them, keeping everything on the straight and narrow. Or if not, then it was intended to hit the audience over the head with a morality mallet of where the scary vice of sexual freedom might lead to.

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.

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Through A Glass Darkly Review

Very Good
Penetrate the murkily pretentious title and you'll find that Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly is a truly thoughtful and moving film about human nature and (of course) man's struggle with a higher power.

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.

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Fanny And Alexander Review

It's much more about young Alexander than his little sister Fanny, and although it's best remembered as Ingmar Bergman's last film (it wasn't, technically, seeing as he's still alive and making movies today), might it also be his warmest film as well? Developed, like Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, for Swedish television, and released in a shortened theatrical version later, 1982's Fanny and Alexander is a rich and surprisingly peaceful coda to one of film's most illustrious careers.

When I say "peaceful" I don't necessarily mean "reconciled." In Fanny and Alexander Bergman sums up the themes of a body of work in which the director often brought audiences to the edge of the abyss and invited them to contemplate the void; and here, using a child as his stand-in, Bergman illustrates very clearly how it is that this void found its genesis and why it can never quite be filled. The difference is that the dilemma of existence in Fanny and Alexander is shown through a child's eyes (Bergman seldom used children elsewhere) and it's suffused with the magic of childhood curiosity and discovery. The child, like Bergman, will grow to be an artist; the director says that tragedies like those that befall Alexander are a necessary part of that.

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Saraband Review

Looking at Ingmar Bergman's revealing close-ups of actors, his deftness at drawing out powerful moments of humanity between two actors, and his use of space within the frame that lends depth to the living rooms and bedrooms his characters inhabit -- look at these things throughout his latest project, Saraband, and ask yourself, "What else is new?" Bergman has been perfecting his craft for over 50 years, and his latest offering is a sequel or epilogue to his Scenes from a Marriage (1974). Even as you're amazed at Bergman's commitment to his craft, you're also wondering whether he's truly offering anything new.

Watching Saraband, occasionally amazed by its power and beauty, I also grew frustrated because it's his same long, slow walk towards personal annihilation, this time simply reprising the characters of contemplative Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and crotchety Johan (Erland Josephson), an ex-married couple that may still have feelings for each other. Predictably, Ullmann and Josephson are brilliant, and suggest tremendous intimacy and depth, humor and hurt. Marianne shows up at Johan's cottage, not quite knowing why. He's still the same mouthy, sensitive, soul-constricted (and often funny) curmudgeon he was 30 years ago. She's still Liv Ullmann, Bergman's luminous object within the frame.

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Faithless Movie Review

Faithless Movie Review

Liv Ullman may get the directing credit, but every line in Faithless is stamped Ingmar...

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