Ingrid Thulin

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Cries And Whispers Review

This 1972 feature by Ingmar Bergman follows the chill, tangled relationship between three sisters: Agnes (Harriett Anderson), Karin (Ingrid Thulin), and Marie (Liv Ullmann). The three have reunited in the manor they grew up in, but the circumstances are grim: Agnes is dying, and her slow decline exposes the long-hidden feelings of guilt and jealousy among them. Flashbacks reveal how intimidated Agnes felt by her mother (also played by Ullmann), Marie's self-destructive attempts to seduce the family doctor, and Karin's self-laceration within her loveless marriage.

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.

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Winter Light Review

Winter Light, the second film in Ingmar Bergman's early-1960s trilogy on the theme of faith in contemporary society, opens in a cold, stone church in a provincial town north of Stockholm. It's uninviting. A service is underway, and the pastor (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) is explaining the origin of the Holy Communion and Christ's betrayal after the Last Supper. The service is poorly attended, the congregation including only the pastor's mistress (Ingrid Thulin), an older woman and a child, and a young couple, he a fisherman (Max von Sydow), and she a housewife expecting their fourth child (Gunnel Lindblom). Everyone is bundled up against the cold, the organist is noisily checking his watch, and outside the windows snow falls ceaselessly.

Winter Light, like much of Bergman, is a slow ride, but it rewards your close attention. The action here has less to do with the plot than with the conflicts taking place within the hearts and souls of its protagonists. Björnstrand's pastor is one who is in crisis; he is battling to retain his faith, and to accommodate his mistress in his life. She has no belief in God; she nurtures on a more practical level (her job is as a school teacher), and the pastor is constantly rejecting her ministrations. The Swedish title of this film translates to The Communicants, meaning both those who take communion and those who communicate among themselves, and it's the tragedy of the film that none of them can.

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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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The Damned Review

Think of it as The Magnificent Nazi Ambersons. Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice) weaves a fictionalized account of 1933-34 Germany as the Nazis rise to power. He follows one family in particular, a wealthy upper-crust bunch of industrialists who throw their lot in with the Nazis, despite some clear abuses in the horizon. These are the titular damned -- having sold their souls pretty much literally in the pursuit of even more wealth.

Along the way Visconti tosses a litany of decadence at us. As if Nazism wasn't enough, we get incest in the family, a little pedophilia, and some cross-dressing and homosexual hijinks. It all culminates in a bloodbath -- the historical "Night of the Long Knives," a one-night, bloody purge of dissidents in Hitler's old private army, the SA (predecessor to the SS), brought on by fears of a coup against his budding rule. Hitler's rule would be solidified after this history-making event.

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Wild Strawberries Review

I've never been much of an Ingmar Bergman fan, but I have respect for much of his work. Wild Strawberries is the notable exception, often hailed as his best or second-best work (after The Seventh Seal). I frankly think it's sub-par, overwhelmingly oppresive in its obvious imagery -- crucifixion motifs and non-sequitur dream sequences -- to the point where a legion of film students have been prompted to copycat its overt heavy-handedness for half a century. In fact, I keep thinking about The Big Picture, where the film students have produced such ultra-sensitive tripe but find heaps of praise piled upon them anyway. Presumably, the audience is stunned that it can understand the filmic metaphors they have created, and thus, they must be genius.

Wild Strawberries is exactly this type of film, a short but often unbearable production about an ancient doctor grappling with a death that is just around the corner. He ends up on a road trip, filled with false starts, wrong turns, and fantastic dream/fantasy sequences, all designed for him to confront death and question the existence of God. But nothing is really questioned, it is simply presented as bleak and nasty, with our hero facing the inevitability of a void in lieu of the afterlife. The film does not provoke any questions or debate about either death or God.

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