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Ingeborg is a small-town piano teacher who raises her foster daughter, Nelly, into young adulthood. When Nelly is eighteen, she is shocked by the arrival of Jenny, her mother, whom she calls "Auntie." Jenny wants to take her to the big city and teach her to be a beautician in her salon. This is devastating news for Ingeborg, who is ill and does not expect to live long. Ulf, the stolid 30ish man in love with Nelly, begs her to stay; but she is not in love with him, considering him much too old. Instead, she is attracted to Jack, a new arrival in town. She doesn't guess that this strange young man with the striped suit and dashing mustache is her mother's lover as well. Written by
Bergman's adaptation of Leck Fischer's play behaves like a stage play that has been slightly adapted for the screen. It is essentially a chamber melodrama and it makes little use of the cinema's expanded scope. The film is watchable and the cast is competent. Almost everything about it is competent. It was Bergman's first go at directing a film. He was 27/28 years old at the time.
Bergman is clearly influenced by Ibsen - I say "is", because the old master (nearly 85 years old now) is still at it on the stage - I have the privilege to hold tickets to see his adaptation of Ibsen's Ghosts in London May 2003 - can't wait. Kris is clearly influenced by Ibsen, but while the piece has borrowed Ibsen's mastery of structure and development, Kris lacks depth. If Ibsen is grand opera, Kris is operetta. Bergman had not yet acquired the skill to turn a minor play into a major film.
There is the odd hint of greatness to come, in particular the railway scene between Jack and Ingeborg. There is also the odd interesting camera angle. But some of the cutting is amateurish and the music is ghastly.
If the weatherman tells you that there is going to be a tremendous storm, you do not need to be a genius to recognise that the wispy breeze is a prelude to that storm. In the absence of that weather forecast, you could be forgiven for not recognising the breeze as an early hint at the big one. So it is with this film. Because we know it is Bergman, we see hints of greatness to come. Otherwise this would seem like an (admittedly above average) ordinary 1940's film.
Bergman aficionados will enjoy it, but it should be quite a way down the list for people who want to start discovering the greatness of Bergman's work.
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