A young woman, Karin, has recently returned to the family island after spending some time in a mental hospital. On the island with her is her lonely brother and kind, but increasingly ... See full summary »
Max von Sydow
The title characters are children in the exuberant and colorful Ekdahl household in a Swedish town early in the twentieth century. Their parents, Oscar and Emilie, are the director and the leading lady of the local theatre company. Oscar's mother and brother are its chief patrons. After Oscar's early death, his widow marries the bishop and moves with her children to his austere and forbidding chancery. The children are immediately miserable. The film dramatizes and resolves those conflicts. A sub-plot features Isak, a local Jewish merchant who is the grandmother's lover and whose odd household becomes the children's refuge. Written by
The movie opens at Christmas 1907. The bishop's proposal to Emilie could not have been any earlier than mid-1908, which means that the end of the film could not have taken place any earlier than mid-1909. Emilie refers to _A Dream Play_ as a "new" play by Strindberg, but the play had already had its Stockholm premiere in 1907, i.e. prior to the start of the action of the film. See more »
Although I have disliked Bergman's earlier films and thought they were by far too overrated, that did not apply to this film. I saw the director's-cut version, over five hours. A little long, yes, and there is not much music, but it's not slow, like Tarkovsky's films can be.
The opening is great, and the first act, the first one and a half hour, was the part I liked the very most. The realism is utter, so is the casting; the best acting I have seen in a Swedish film, it's amazing. I can't complain about any actor, they were all extremely good. So is the dialog. Alexander had a typical upper class look, so did his grandmother, who looked extremely fresh and healthy and beautiful, for her age. All together, the language and milieus are very credible. No over-colorful costumes and silly dialogs, that is such a frequent element nowadays in historical plays, especially from America.
Bergman succeeds to capture the customs and behavior that were used (and to some extent still is used) within the Swedish upper class, as well as general Swedish customs and behavior. I know this, because I am familiar with it and have partly experienced it myself. The result is sometimes amazing. Bergman succeeds to capture the atmosphere of the old times, through language and decoration. The photo is at time dazzling; some scenes are identical to 19th century Swedish painting, and I get the thought that Bergman turned to these in search for the right setting of the film.
Unlike early works by Bergman, which tend to be somewhat theatrical, the keyword here is realism, which I appreciate greatly. The actors manage, like I said, to speak and play in a way that I feel was customary at that period of time. It might be too much to claim this work to be a Swedish Tarkovsky film, but I sensed it had some philosophical material, and it is definitely thoughtful. Otherwise, I think it is worth watching for the acting and dialog alone.
One of the best Swedish films ever made, and Bergman's best, in my opinion. (9/10)
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