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The Rite (1969)

Riten (original title)
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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Complete credited cast:
Thea Winkelmann
Sebastian Fisher
Hans Winkelmann
Erik Hell ...
Judge Dr. Abrahamson


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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Release Date:

18 September 1969 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Rite  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Sebastian Fisher: Not only are you nasty and repulsive, you're a crap actor to boot. Your acting in the past few minutes is among the worst I've ever seen. You're ruthless, immoral and rotten. People like you don't deserve to live.
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User Reviews

a collection of taut mind-games and gripping and revealing dialog...and then there's the last scene!
1 October 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'm one of those: Ingmar Bergman is a true artist, a great filmmaker who's connection with the brightness and deepest darkness of human nature, of faults with religion, with close relationships, horrors of the mind, dreams, was so strong that it's hard to believe that he made so much and didn't succumb sooner to his most dogged troubles- death. In the case of the Rite, it's basically an experiment. He has ten scenes, four actors (not counting himself in an uproarious cameo appearance/in-joke on the Seventh Seal as a priest), and a lot of sado-masochistic psychology to work with. There aren't quite as many monologues as in Persona, and not the same depth of a relationship ala Scenes From a Marriage. But for the most part, the Rite works well as another exploration of Bergman's into the frayed mindset of actors, the discombobulated circumstances they get themselves into personally that mucks them up in the real world. Only the theater is their strange refuge, might be the message here, if there is one.

One thing's for certain, among the many performances that Bergman stock-company members Bjornstrand and Thullin have given in past films (Winter Light maybe their best pairing), the Rite provides them some of their best work. It might be almost too easy considering the material- a married couple that is completely miserable, full of the kind of bile that is found in the worst boils- and brought to a more succinct point by the actor Anders Ek (who has also been in a couple other Bergman flicks, notably Seventh Seal as the Monk), who might be the most exhaustedly p-o'd actor one's ever seen. They're all on trial for some Kafkaesque reason by a judge (Erik Hell) who is making their nerves totally on edge with his insistence on all the 'facts' coming in. The scenes particularly with him and Thulin are explosive, and even shocking to a point, where as before there's been subtlety and insinuation.

As it stands, approximately 9/10ths of The Rite is close to vintage Bergman as one could hope for, coming out of a period in the 60s where he plunged into a deconstructionist approach that found him working at full-steam (Persona, Shame, and Hour of the Wolf are some of the most daring 'art-house' films ever conceived and executed), and considering this as just an exercise is nothing to sneeze at...That being said, there is that final scene in the office I can't get out of my head, and unlike other times with Bergman I'm not sure it's such a good thing. It's a turning-the-tables scene where the actors come in costumes and masks ala Eyes Wide Shut and freak the f*** out of the judge, and Hell (no pun intended) goes into a rant about how wrong he was and how he sees that he's just a lawyer who didn't want to do this and that and so on. And it just doesn't feel the same as the rest of the material in the film, an 'off' quality, despite (or in spite) of the fact that on its own it's a truly outrageous thing to see: the costumes are sado-masochism incarnate, with a certain appendage that is ridiculous, and a bowl of wine that is obvious symbolically.

Maybe someday if I re-watch the Rite I'll come to admire or find something else about the scene that works better, but for now it's the only thing that is really a bugger about what is otherwise an exemplary work of cinematic theater. If you can find it somewhere in your local video store (emphasis on 'video', it's not available on DVD), and are already head-deep in the master of Scandinavian motion pictures, it's worth it.

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