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The Rite (1969)
"Riten" (original title)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama  -  18 September 1969 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 1,118 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 10 critic

A judge in an unnamed country interviews three actors, together and singly, provoking them while investigating a pornographic performance for which they may face a fine. Their relationships... See full summary »

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Title: The Rite (TV Movie 1969)

The Rite (TV Movie 1969) on IMDb 7.2/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Thea Winkelmann
Anders Ek ...
Sebastian Fisher
...
Hans Winkelmann
Erik Hell ...
Judge Dr. Abrahamson
...
Priest
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Storyline

A judge in an unnamed country interviews three actors, together and singly, provoking them while investigating a pornographic performance for which they may face a fine. Their relationships are complicated: Sebastian, volatile, a heavy drinker, in debt, guilty of killing his former partner, is having an affair with that man's wife. She is Thea, high strung, prone to fits, and seemingly fragile, currently married to Sebastian's new partner, Hans. Hans is the troupe leader, wealthy, self-contained, growing tired. The judge plays on the trio's insecurities, but when they finally, in a private session with him, perform the masque called The Rite, they may have their revenge Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Drama

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18 September 1969 (USA)  »

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The Rite  »

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1.33 : 1
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Hans Winkelmann: Isn't it better to have insecurity with small artificial islands of security? It agrees better with the real state of affairs than the other way round.
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User Reviews

A nightmarish, Kafkaesque chamber piece; Bergman at his most enigmatic
23 May 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a somewhat odd and enigmatic film from Bergman; perhaps in keeping with many of the other films that he produced during the mid-to-late 1960's, and one that seems to be an extension of the artistic and psychological themes established in his more widely-acknowledged masterpiece, Persona (1966). Like that particular film, The Rite (1969) is a carefully structured drama built around a small cast of characters warring with one another in a close and claustrophobic environment that stresses the theatrical nature of the script. By refusing to extend on the material as many other filmmakers would when adapting one of their own works from stage to screen, Bergman creates a much tighter situation that gives the drama a stark, nightmarish quality that removes us completely from reality. Here, we are isolated with these characters, with all notion of the outside world or life beyond those drab, grey, minimalist locations having been removed completely, creating a void that overwhelms us.

The film also extends on some of the director's more recognisable themes, such as performance and persecution, with the idea of actors playing actors creating a performance that is not simply a part of the film, but also a comment upon it. It's perhaps a little clumsy in some places, especially compared to the aforementioned Persona, or indeed, similarly themed films like Hour of the Wolf (1966) and A Passion (1968); with the deeply enigmatic nature and theatrical presentation working towards an incredibly cold and uncomfortable atmosphere that never quite explains itself. I suppose this is a result of the short-running time and the fact that it was produced quickly and cheaply for Swedish television. However, it is still an incredibly bold piece of work, and one that definitely needs to be experienced by those with a real taste and admiration for the filmmaker; with the typically "Bergmanesque" themes and the strong performances and intense and troubling characterisations created by the cast making this a much more interesting and rewarding film than the brief plot outline might suggest.

The structure of the film is intended to somewhat distance us from the drama in a way that many of Bergman's better films would. Here, he uses chapter headings to disrupt the narrative; bringing to our attention the theatrical nature of the presentation and the artificiality of the world to, in effect, remove us from it. It works on a similar level to the self-reflexive interview sequences that punctuate the narrative of the previous A Passion, albeit, on a much more subtle level. Again, it is intended to add a further dimension to the film, but also to make the viewing process even more difficult. It also denies us a central character, with both the central government figure and the three performers all moving from hateful to sympathetic from one scene to the next. There are also at least two scenes that seem to be even further disconnected from reality. One such scene involves the youngest of the performers setting fire to his hotel room, lying back on his bed with his sunglasses on and staring up at the ceiling with a cool detachment as the room is engulfed by flames. It is never referred to or explained whether this scene actually takes place or if it is merely symbolic; though I suppose it could be read on an analytical level in regards to that particular character and his somewhat damaged and detached personality.

The second scene I won't go into, as it's one of the most important moments in the film. However, it is interesting how it sets up the atmosphere for that troubling and enigmatic finale, which again, is never fully explained and seems to sway the film away from the performers and more towards the self-appointed judge. There's a definite Kafka-like influence developed here, not only with the characters but with the situation that they find themselves in. So, we have a small group of characters put on trial for what we later learn are "obscenity charges", but the actual scenes between the judge and the performers seems to be much more cryptic and personal. If you're fond of the mind games and psychological role-playing developed in Persona then you should get a real thrill out of the five interview scenes that form the backbone of the film in question, with each character playing up to their own emotional strengths and weaknesses whilst finding themselves in this hopeless and incomprehensible situation.

Given the nature of the film I won't discuss the ending too much, though suffice to say it changes the way we look at those preceding scenes and seems to open up the narrative to further ideas of self-reflexive interpretation. So, we have the idea of a film within a film, or perhaps something more literal. Or is it a metaphor for the struggle of creativity in the face of government oppression. Indeed, at the time this film was made, Bergman was fighting his own battles against both theatre and cinema and how they were being developed back in Sweden at this particular time. It seems like he had lost faith in his audience and those who were paying for his work to be developed and these fears and anxieties are presented in the film alongside a rage of fury and aggression. For certain, this is a dark, troubling and enigmatic psychological piece that rewards patient viewers with a thought-provoking, Kafkaesque moral dilemma with room for personal interpretation.


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