25 user 25 critic

The Serpent's Egg (1977)

Following the suicide of his beloved brother and deaths of even the most distant acquaintances, Abel Rosenberg attempts to discover the truth while facing depression, alcoholism, and anti-semitism.




On Disc

at Amazon

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Touch (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A seemingly happy Swedish housewife and mother begins an adulterous affair with a foreign archaeologist who is working near her home. But he is an emotionally scarred man, a Jewish survivor... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Elliott Gould, Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Andreas, a man struggling with the recent demise of his marriage and his own emotional isolation, befriends a married couple also in the midst of psychological turmoil. In turn he meets ... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow
Face to Face (1976)
Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A sensitive exploration of the tragic irony of the psychiatrist suffering with mental illness. Dr. Jenny Isaksson is a psychiatrist married to another psychiatrist; both are successful in ... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Aino Taube
Shame (1968)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Ingmar Bergman's psychological study of how humans react in a situation of war. The film takes place on Gotland, where invasion forces arrive.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Sigge Fürst
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

The pretentious critic Cornelius is writing a biography on a famous cellist and to do some research he goes to stay in his house for a few days. He doesn't manage to get an interview with ... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Eva Dahlbeck
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The devil has a stye in his eye, caused by the purity of a vicar's daughter. To get rid of it, he sends Don Juan up from hell to seduce the 20 year old Britt-Marie and to rob her of her ... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Järrel
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Made during Bergman's tax-related exile in Germany, the film continues the story of Katarina and Peter EGermann, the feuding, childless, professional couple who appear in one episode of "... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Robert Atzorn, Christine Buchegger, Martin Benrath
Brink of Life (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Three women in a maternity ward reveal their lives and intimate thoughts to each other while in a maternity ward together, where they face the choice of keeping their babies or offering them for adoption.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Eva Dahlbeck, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson
The Magic Flute (TV Movie 1975)
Comedy | Fantasy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The Queen of the Night offers her daughter Pamina to Tamino, but he has to bring her back from her father and priest Sarastro. She gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to the bird ... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Ulrik Cold, Josef Köstlinger, Irma Urrila
Autumn Sonata (1978)
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A married daughter who longs for her mother's love gets visited by the latter, a successful concert pianist.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann, Lena Nyman
Dreams (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

In Stockholm, the fashion photographer Susanne Frank misses her married lover Henrik Lobelius that lives in Gothenburg with his wife and children, and the naive twenty years old model Doris... See full summary »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Eva Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand
The Rite (TV Movie 1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

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 »

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Ingrid Thulin, Anders Ek, Gunnar Björnstrand


Credited cast:
Manuela Rosenberg
Inspector Bauer (as Gert Froebe)
Heinz Bennent ...
Hans Vergerus
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Toni Berger ...
Mr. Rosenberg
Paula Braend ...
Mrs. Hemse
Erna Brünell ...
Mrs. Rosenberg (as Erna Bruenell)
Paul Bürks ...
Cabaret Comedian (as Paul Buerks)
Gaby Dohm ...
Woman with baby
Emil Feist ...
Georg Hartmann ...
Edith Heerdegen ...
Mrs. Holle
Klaus Hoffmann ...
Commando Announcer


Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg follows a week in the life of Abel Rosenberg, an out-of-work American circus acrobat living in poverty-stricken Berlin following Germany's defeat in World War I. When his brother commits suicide, Abel seeks refuge in the apartment of an old acquaintance Professor Veregus. Desperate to make ends meet in the war-ravaged city, Abel takes a job in Veregus' clinic, where he discovers the horrific truth behind the work of the strangely beneficent professor and unlocks the chilling mystery that drove his brother to kill himself. Written by Leigh Thomas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The kind of terror that could never be... until now... until Bergman! See more »


R | See all certifications »






Release Date:

15 February 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Schlangenei  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


DEM 12,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was a critical and commercial failure at the box-office. See more »


The Nazi-looking thugs that are beating up people are wearing Model 1943 German army caps and 1940s style clothing. This film is supposed to take place in the 1920s. See more »


Hans Vergerus: [explains the upcoming social and political developments in Germany to Abel Rosenberg] It's like a serpent's egg. Through the thin membranes, you can clearly discern the already perfect reptile.
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #22.33 (2005) See more »


Das Lied vom süssen Bonbon
Music by Rolf A. Wilhelm
Lyrics by Rolf A. Wilhelm and Kurt Wilhelm
Performed by Liv Ullmann
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Is It Really The Master's Mistake?
9 September 2004 | by (Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

Fear, Loathing, and Despair in Berlin, November 1923

This film universally considered "the master's failure" but I don't agree with the statement. It is very different from the rest of Bergman's films I've seen but that does not make it failure for me. It is only Bergman's second film in English and it boasts an unusual for his films large budget (Dino De Laurentis was a producer) with enormous and elaborate sets. Bergman was able to recreate on the screen Germany (Berlin) of 1920th exactly how it was seen in the films of 1920th German directors - Fritz Lang's films come to mind first. Another film that The Serpent's Egg reminded me of was Bob Fosse's Cabaret - the theme of the Feast during the Time of Plague sounds very prominent in both films, and the cabaret's musical numbers in Bergman's film could've came from Fosse's. I was very impressed by Liv Ullmann's singing and dancing in the beginning of the film - she can do anything.

In spite of the film's obvious differences from Bergman's earlier work, it explores many of his favorite themes. It is in part a political film about the helpless, distressed and terrorized members of society that face the merciless and inevitable force of history and are perished without a trace in the process. Also like the earlier films, The Serpent's Egg explores its characters' self-isolation, inability to communicate, their attempt to cope with the pain of living, their despair, fear, and disintegration.

The Serpent's Egg may not be a perfect film and a lot has been said about the abrupt and heavy handed ending, the dialogs that don't always work, and David Carradine's performance as a main character. Perfect or not, I think it is an interesting, visually always amazing (cinematography by Sven Nykvist is above any praise) and very honest and thorough study of the human condition in the unbearable situation.

In the documentary 'Serpent's Egg: Away From Home' (2004), Ingmar Bergman, Liv Ullmann and David Carradine talk about making the film, how it started and how and why it was so different. Liv said that couple of years ago she and Bergman had seen The Serpent's Egg for the first time, and they both liked it. I am in a good company, then, because I believe that Serpent's Egg is an unforgettable film and everyone who was involved in making it should not be ashamed of it. I am yet to see a Bergman's film that I don't like.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
carradine's performance teejay6682
Inspector Lohmann lurm
Breaking Down Bergman on The Serpent's Egg eo_guy
Discuss The Serpent's Egg (1977) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: