Lars-owe Carlberg

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Cries And Whispers Review


Good
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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Shame Review


Essential
Most of us in America never felt the recent war in Iraq in a tangible, day-to-day way. There are those of us who lost loved ones, of course, but what I refer to here is the daily, nagging toll that war takes on all of those - military and civilian - living in its midst. We do not, say, suffer interruptions in our fresh water supply, nor are we compelled to guard our speech and conduct or to stockpile food and supplies. Part of the genius of Ingmar Bergman's great 1968 film Shame (now available on DVD) is that it brings these stark, quotidian horrors - and those that these escalate into - home to the viewer. That alone would be an achievement, but Shame moves in deeper waters still: It shows, in the bleakest and most uncompromising terms, that the worst that war has to offer is the wounds it inflicts on the human mind. Together with René Clément's Forbidden Games (1952) and Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937), it stands as one of the great pacifist statements of the modern day.

The plot is simplicity itself. The Rosenbergs (played by Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow) are a youngish couple enjoying average happiness on an island that's part of a larger, unnamed country. (The fact that Bergman chooses not to specify the film's setting, nor to clarify the conflict that follows, contributes to the film's surreal yet universal feel.) Both are musicians; they farm a little, too, and they drive their ailing truck into town to sell their produce. It's not an idyllic existence, exactly; the two are not above bickering, for instance, and in their discontented moments they may feel that they've settled for something. But it's essentially (and believably) a happy life.

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Hour Of The Wolf Review


Good
Hour of the Wolf is hardly Ingmar Bergman's best-known work nor his best, but it at least deserves a wider audience than history has granted it. One of his most surreal and simple tales, Wolf follows a couple who live on a desolate island (why do Bergman's characters always choose to live in the worst possible conditions?). He's a painter, she's a doting wife. Oh, and he's well on his way to going insane, with all manner of violent visions crashing through his mind.

Played by Bergman regulars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, the couple quickly -- inside an hour and a half -- comes completely apart as von Sydow's visions become indistinguishable from reality. Hour of the Wolf has been described as Bergman's only horror film and that's not far from the mark, with creepy characters and imagery pervading the entire second half of the movie.

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Scenes From A Marriage Review


Essential
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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