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Five conversations frame a flawed marriage in this film written by Ingmar Bergman about his parents. Guilt-ridden wife Anna (Pernilla August) divulges an extramarital affair to a priest, her uncle Jacob (Max von Sydow). He presses her to confess her sins to her husband, Henrik. As the film moves back and forth in time, the notion of truth is tested. Tomas, the lover, and Henrik will find that Anna's confessions do not absolve anyone, and have the power to inflict more pain. Source: Rotten Tomatoes Written by
Full of deep, painful but harrowingly rewarding emotions, and a knockout performance by Pernilla August (one of those performers that does so much when seeming to do so little), and reveals Liv Ullmann as a gifted director - maybe she was the only one to direct this, as Billie August did The Best Intentions (and I may possibly, just maybe, prefer this film to Best Intentions, which this is a sequel to), since for Bergman so much is already so personal (the characters are his parents, or versions of them anyway).
But every episode is wholly rewarding, and the moments of sensual tenderness between characters are underlined by how the dialog drives things so fiercely: like the best characters written by Mr. Bergman, these people, especially Anna, Henrik and Tomas, want to find the right path but get corrupted, or just screwed up, by where their hearts lead them. It may also be one of the most mature works by this writer, as the story jumps from episode to episode in time (about five 'confessions'/conversations in all, spanning many years), as we see the bulk of the action take place when Anna had her affair, the fall-out with her husband... and then ten years later (as well as when Anna was 18) when she tells to her Uncle Jacob (Max von Sydow, who is great and who could expect otherwise, especially here as a forgiving but firm minister).
This jump isn't simply to be clever, far from it - we learn along with the characters, and time does change a lot of things. By the end, I looked back on the episodes on Private Confessions as meaning so much, for the drama they went through and that I saw, and even with an ending that appears to be 'happy', there is still a well of anguish that can always be tapped. When it comes to Bergman, by way of his great love and collaborator Liv Ullmann, romance is never, ever easy, especially when some sort of 'God' may be watching and judging. Oh, and having Bergman-regular Sven Nykvist shoot is always welcome (this was the last time he would bring light and dark to his words).
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