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Last night, I watched "Faithless," and I've thought about it almost
constantly since. A magnificent, heart-rending film. Surely this is
Bergman's finest script. It's absolutely uncompromising in its
unsentimental, clinical, story-telling, and filled with that compassion
devoid of hope that is Bergman's trademark, and his own world
Hopelessness as the key to dignified human life, day by day, would seem to be an apt description of Bergman's philosophy.
I won't give away the dénouement of the story, in case you are fortunate enough not to have seen it yet, and to be able to see it. Let me just say that I was completely surprised by the plot twist near the end--it caught me entirely off-guard, and later I felt that I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. That's the mark of a master writer, to be able to take the reader (or viewer) unaware. Ingmar Bergman could have had a career as a mystery/suspense writer if he'd wanted to. (I'm glad he didn't.)
The story of "Faithless" is that of a marriage plunged into chaos by the aftermath of one chance phrase, uttered by a close friend of the married couple to the wife after a late-night supper. With a dazzling propensity for making wrong choices, which, if we're honest, we'll all recognize existing in our own lives, the protagonists rush headlong into a hell of their own making. At the center of the story, like a small, still, silent observer, resides Isabelle, the nine-year-old daughter. The effect of the grown-ups' actions on this poor child renders the story all the more poignant and horrifying.
But what I've sketched here (omitting the surprise towards the last) is only half the story. And in a sense it's not even the real story.
For Marianne and Markus (the married couple), David (the mutual friend), Isabelle, and the other main characters don't, in a sense, even exist.
The film opens in the study of an elderly film director (played by Erland Josephson, close friend and colleague of Bergman, and the actor who played Joseph, the husband, in "Scenes from a Marriage"--where his character's wife's name, Marianne, matches that of the character played in this film by Lena Endre, in an unforgettable tour-de-force amounting to a two-and-a-half-hour monologue; Marianne, in the earlier film, reminiscent of this one in many ways, was played with similar bravado by this film's director, Liv Ullman, long-time associate of Bergman and for some years his lover).
The setting might well be Bergman's own study in his house on the remote Swedish island where he's lived in isolation for the past several years. The desk is slightly more cluttered than Bergman's own (which is adorned only with a clock and a photograph of his wife, with whom, he admits, he still has conversations, years after her death, which devastated him and helped drive him into "exile"). The room is almost bare otherwise, immaculately kept, furnished with a stereo, an armchair, a couple of lamps, a few photographs on the wall.
The exterior scenes were undoubtedly shot on location on the actual island.
The "director" is seated at his desk, talking aloud to an empty room, but addressing "Marianne." First as a shadow behind him, then fully visible seated on a window-seat, Marianne appears at his bidding. The movie goes on from there--sessions of talk in the director's study, the director mainly asking pointed questions, Marianne, and later David, sometimes hesitant or afraid to answer, but gradually revealing the painful facts of their excruciating misconduct.
Significantly, at a crucial point the director comforts each of these "imaginary" (but in the film very real) creatures by a caress to the cheek-as if wiping away a child's tears.
At the end of the turbulent story, he's left alone with his manuscript--and the dark, rolling sea. He walks slowly, awkwardly along the pebbly beach, lost in thought, just as Bergman does every day.
I believe that, thanks to the incalculable combined talent of Bergman and Ullman, this film offers the viewer catharsis, as in the Greek tragedies. I certainly have felt very different in the hours since viewing it. If "religious" leaders had the courage and honesty to offer their faithful the same hopeless but compassionate view of life as this film, and Bergman's own outlook, afford, then I think the world would be a much better place.
Ironically, Bergman's point of view is largely the result of a childhood spent under the heavy hand of Protestantism. (His father was a stern pastor.) But the result has been Protestantism with a twist: in a godless world, we doom ourselves to shame and horror, yet we can, somehow, still find the dignity to go on living one day at a time, doing the best we can with our pathetic lives.
And that's the best we can do. There is no redemption, not even in art: but there may be some clarification, if we're lucky.
In the end, all we had was ourselves and one another. And we did what we thought we had to do.
'Faithless', as a film experience, is both novel and old-fashioned.
because films like this simply aren't being made today, films that take
length of an expensive historical epic to concentrate on the characters,
emotions, words, experiences and largely interior milieux of a handful of
people; people who are not grim, sword-wielding Romans or suave cannibals,
just fundamentally decent, cultured people capable of horrendous acts for
love, in a low-key, familiar, plausible, yet devastating way. It is a
that knows its audience will accept 2 1/2 hours devoted largely to talk
relationships; where anything sensational, like rape, suicide or murder,
'Faithless' is, however, curiously old-fashioned. This kind of film used to be a fairly regular staple of art-house production in the 1960s and 70s, the heyday of its screenwriter, Ingmar Bergman. A time when an audience with this level of patience and willingness to involve themselves in constructing the film's meaning was quite large and influential. Where carefully realised characters, places and dialogue were important; where subjects like marriage, divorce, grief, death, betrayal were explored in complex, understanding ways that never cheated on them for the sake of a quick ending.
Such a throwback is shocking. Even the arthouse alternatives of today have largely forsaken this mode of filmmaking for fear of being labelled unwieldly or -horrors - pretentious. it is not only pre-'STar Wars', but almost pre-post-modern; irony here is a creative tool, not a cop-out attitude. I'm not suggesting that films which privilege character and dialogue over plot and action are inherently superior, but it's nice to see one once in a while.
I know they're a hard sell. I desperately want you to see this film, but I can't promise that you'll be entertained or amused. We are asked to watch, for 154 minutes, the relentless dissolution of a marriage and the adulterous relationship; we are asked to watch characters analyse, torture themselves, seek emotional exits through self-pity and histrionics. We are asked to watch the effect of all this on a young child. We have to watch this path lead to some truly shocking climaxes. Even 'lollipops', such as the pleasure of the affair, the Parisian interlude etc., are soured by our foreknowledge of the events and their general outcome, if not details. There is no Hollywood softening through swelling music or redemptive epiphanies. The film's austerity, autumnal/wintry tone and self-reflexive formal apparatus reminds me of a late Beckett play, like'Ohio Impromptu' or 'That Time'. An old artist (in this case a filmmaker), emotionally paralysed for decades having taken the wrong decisions in a relationship through a monstrous pride and egotism, tries to unravel the processes that led him to his current shellshocked state.
The long, painful move towards understanding involves tortuous conservations with ghosts, memories, past selves, all filtered through, and thus compromised by his own subjective ego, his need to explain and expiate. The film we watch is also about the creation of the film we're watching. Self-reflexivity intrudes throughout - the film projector through the window behind Bergman; the characters all in the arts; the theatre settings; the allusions to Bergman's past works; the motif of the 'Magic Flute' magic box etc. - all emphasising the way characters perform and ritualise their genuine feelings; asking us how we interpret testimonies that are, in any case, the wranglings of a guilty man's head.
The film is such a bracing reminder of what cinema used to do, you're prepared to forgive its faults - the neatness of the plot, especially, tending predictably towards a harrowing, yet cathartic, revelation. Like Francois Ozon's brilliant Fassbinder adaptation 'Water Falling on Burning Rocks', Ullman's Bergman pastiche cannot fully replicate the power of the original; audiences couldn't handle it, we've been intellectually softened. The climax is harrowing, but contained - think of the true horrors of a film like 'Cries and Whispers'. Bergman would never let us, or the character Bergman, off so easily.
But this is Ullmann's picture, and the way she films a scene like Marianne's revelation about her nocturnal plea-bargaining with her husband, or the earlier, squirmingly comic scene where he discovers the lovers in flagranto delicto, have an empathetic, non-exploitative tact that may have been beyond her master.
Ensconced in the study of his house on a secluded island off the coast of Sweden, an aging director reminisces and reflects on aspects of his life apparently still in need of resolution, in `Faithless,' written by Ingmar Bergman and directed by Liv Ullmann. Bergman is the name of the director, played by Erland Josephson, who engages in a fantasy conversation with a woman named Marianne (Lena Endre), who confesses to him her affair, after eleven years of marriage, with a man named David (Krister Henriksson), the best friend of her husband, Markus (Thomas Hanzon). Through their conversations, as well as scenes depicting particular episodes from her life-- beginning with the initial encounter with David-- we learn the intimate details of Marianne's life, as well as Markus' and their young daughter's, Isabelle (Michelle Gylemo) and, of course, David's. It's an intense, engrossing character study that examines the weaknesses and foibles of human nature to which we are all susceptible. It's a story that is, by turns, grim and thoughtful, at times poignant, while at other moments distressing, as it reflects the myriad emotional levels to which the human condition is prone at any given time. As the story progresses, it becomes impossible to distance yourself from the characters involved in the drama, for there is so much about them with which anyone in the audience will be readily able to identify; not necessarily with the infidelities, but grounded in the choices we all must make throughout our lives and the consequences thereof, and upon which a film like this precipitates rumination. As with all of the films Bergman has written and/or directed during his career, it is a pensive, thought-provoking incursion into reality. As she proved with her directorial debut of the 1997 film `Private Confessions,' also scripted by Bergman, Liv Ullmann is more than up to the formidable task of bringing Bergman's story to the screen. Her style of directing is similar to Bergman's, as could be expected-- their close working and personal relationship has spanned more than thirty years-- but her approach is perhaps a bit softer than his, and uniquely her own. In the final analysis, any similarities are primarily due to the story, which lends itself to the style Bergman perfected and upon which Ullmann certainly draws. It's not so much a matter of imitation as it is of following an intrinsic pattern conducive to the storytelling, and Ullmann has an innate sensitivity to the material that translates into the presentation of the drama and elicits the necessary sympathy and compassion from the audience that enhances the impact of it. Like Bergman, she uses the camera to help capture the sense of the drama visually, which at times creates an almost ethereal, poetic atmosphere that contrasts so well with the more stoic aspects of the story. Ullmann has an excellent sense of rhythm, and the pace of the film allows the viewer time to assimilate the many nuances of emotion expressed through the characters. Lena Endre gives a remarkable performance as Marianne, infusing a passion into the character that makes it ring so true to life, and it's one of the strengths of the film. She bares Marianne's soul, leaving no question as to the inner turmoil with which she must cope, and it reflects in Bergman's character as well; through her struggles we also feel the remorse of Bergman's character, and upon reflection it makes you realize how effective Josephson is in the role of Bergman. For it is in his subtle reactions to the phantom Marianne, and in his silent ruminations, that we learn so much about all that has transpired in their lives. Henriksson gives a notable performance as well, deftly exposing the complexities of the character that lie beneath the somewhat reserved exterior of the man, while Hanzon is effective as Markus, as is Gylemo as the young Isabelle. With `Faithless,' Ullmann firmly establishes her mark as an artist of extraordinary vision and sense of reality. Her collaboration with Ingmar Bergman is a cinematic triumph, and we can only hope that there will be more to follow, for with every film they make, another chapter is written in the Book of Life. I rate this one 10/10.
One of the best films I've seen. Liv Ullman does an excellent job
directing Bergmans masterpiece of a manuscript. Hollywood has a lot to
learn, with their cheesy garbage scripts, Hollywood and this movie
represent two different solar systems.
Stunning imagery, great acting, great direction and off course a manuscript that gives you sleepless nights. The actors are very well chosen, the use of light is intelligent and so is the tempo and rhythm of this film.
The viewer is taken to a journey in humanities inner thoughts failures. Suicide and death is relevant as ever to the late Bergman who with his skills takes us through layers and (inner) layers of personalities and feelings these characters have. Feelings of love, betrayal, relationship and co-existence. Each of the characters are dynamic, complex and multi- dimensional and this is again enhanced through the great acting of the actors.
Bravo Bergman and Ullman
The performance by Lena Endre was the best I have seen this decade. And the facial nuances of Erland Josephson were superior as well. All in all, the acting surpassed the totality of the movie per se; but, still this is a movie well worth seeing. I wish the US would produce films like this.
Not to be an elitist, but no one I know is more familiar with the work and
life of Ingmar Bergman than yours truly, so when his latest and
film, Faithless, was recently released, I was immediately eager to see it.
And staying true to his promise never to direct another film after Fanny
Alexander, he couldn't have picked a better director for his script than
protege and long-time colleague Liv Ullman.
So, what we end up with in Faithless, is a true-to-form Bergmanesque tale
that runs a bit too long and has one too many tragedies.
For the most part, the film is pretty much saved by excellent performances, especially the portrayal of Marianne by Lena Endre. The plot is a tangled web of infidelity and its consequences, punctuated with as much heartbreak, pain and suffering as any Bergman opus, and certainly as much as the average viewer can imagine or tolerate. To be sure, Bergman isn't for everyone. But if you enjoy an occasional catharsis, immobilizing intensity and walking out of the theater thinking your life isn't as bad as you thought it was, this film's for you. For those of you familiar with and amenable to Bergman trademarks, you won't be disappointed. There are plenty of long facial close-ups, monologues, ghosts as figurative demons, and a character that represents Bergman himself. This last feature is one of the machinations I feel we could have done without. It adds a character who is not really part of the plot and does little more than listen. There's also a heaviness to the plot that kind of hits you over the head. Major drama is all right with me, and Bergman is one of the best in that genre, but it was dangerously close to the saturation point of redundance and pretension. Nevertheless, for all you Bergman fans, foreign film lovers and wanna-be celluloid asthetes, you really should add this title to your repetoire. Bergman is truly one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and considering his very advanced age, this could be his last outing. Then again...
Ingmar Bergman,as you may know it ,wrote the screenplay of
,a great director and a writer-to me--he is more a `writer' than
Erland Josephson is Bergman 's best friend and favorite actor in Faithless he plays,well,Bergman!.Erland 's character is an aging film and theatre director who `conjures' up the ghost of Marianne(Lena Endre),an actress and ex lover ,who also became his muse.The film concentrates on her disastrous affair- years ago- with her husband's best friend and the terrible consequences for her own family(as the suffering of her child). Lena Endre is part of Ingmar Bergman troupe(she has worked with him in the theater) gives one of the most exhausting performance I ever seen!.she can seat next to Ingrid Thulin as one of the most captivating female actresses from Sweden(after Greta and Ingrid of course!).Liv Ullman(another Ingmar Bergman muse) in `Faithless',also gives something important:a tribute-- `homage'-- to this unique film-maker.Liv's directorial work it's strong -of course--she had learn from the best!.
Bergman's fascination -through his so productive- career has been the impossibility of relationship between a man and a woman;the egocentrism of an artist and also death.We tend to ` idealize' monogamy and fidelity.FAITHLESS is close to films like Scene from a Marriage,(starring Ullman) or Wild Strawberries(an aging man goes to a metaphysical journey).So ,my question is :was Ullman paying tribute to Bergman or this film is Bergman's gift to his long time muse?.I think is both.
See also Bergman's CRIES &WHISPERS.His tribute to all his important muses,women and actresses of his incredible career.
Anguish and uncertainty,just think of what this words means.Faithless is a complex film about many subjects: `adults' who can't have a connection.'complex woman'_one thing that I love about this film is how complicated the female psyche can be.and the perception of reality/fiction from an artist(he creates from his experience or it is based on fiction and fantasies?).Bergman_through close-up _ had show the `female GAZE'-that particular LOOK. In Faithless his woman sees an extraordinary old man,he is her confidant-she doesn't exist without him-(or viceversa?).Then, she vanishes. an artist can be very faithful with his own art,with his actresses ,with himself---this is a very powerful subject.FILMS are a prove that ghosts really exist,that characters are more alive than real people.Bergman and ULLMAN:faithful talents exploring the blurred line between an artist and his muse.Or when the muse surpasses the creator.(can this be possible?).A wife.A lover.A muse.all of this and more.
An old alienated writer, in an empty house, on a barren seashore, is
kept company by characters of his own making. A profound and poignant
This is one of the last scripts Bergman ever wrote.
Heartrending. In the end, these fantasms finish telling him their tale and they leave him. When it's over, he is utterly alone. But, at the end, the camera drifts over and reveals the pages of his now finished book. One is left with the impression that though this is a bleak life, it is not one without meaning or value.
Even if directed by his all-time leading lady Liv Ullman, "Faithless" is a 100% Bergman movie.It is directed wonderfully, with an amazing photography and beautiful sets. The influence Bergman has over Liv Ullman is really strong (fortunately) and the script is as Bergman as it gets : Psychological tension in its peak, visceral human relationships, self-destruction and all the well known Ingmar's demons. Those really familiar with this giant writer/director will find in "faithless" a lot of autobiographical quotes. Let's hope this is not the last we hear from Ingmar. This movie is wonderfully moving. A must for the Bergman lover, and for anyone with high taste.
Scripted by Ingmar Bergman and directed by his protege Liv Ullman, this
is much closer in spirit to Bergman realist dramas of the '70's than to
earlier expressionist work. Many of his characteristic themes are here:
responsibility of artists, and the hopelessness at the heart of modern
relationships are prominent.
It's a deeply melancholy film, the only piece of comic relief is a scene where one of the protagonists is rehearsing a play which is hopelessly overwrought: if cinema is Bergman's mistress and theatre his wife, in this case, she's a wild, psychotic spouse. The movie as a whole is deeply theatrical, though, saved from being stagey by a few beautifully poetic cinematic touches. The acting is wonderful, bringing to a well-worn tale a deeply moving grandeur.
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