The story of a young Gerd, played by Liv Ullmann in her first leading role, who falls in love with a young boy. She is considered a 'loose' woman, and the boy's family does not accept their ... Read allThe story of a young Gerd, played by Liv Ullmann in her first leading role, who falls in love with a young boy. She is considered a 'loose' woman, and the boy's family does not accept their relationship. The young couple run away to a cabin in the woods where they meet a rogue ma... Read allThe story of a young Gerd, played by Liv Ullmann in her first leading role, who falls in love with a young boy. She is considered a 'loose' woman, and the boy's family does not accept their relationship. The young couple run away to a cabin in the woods where they meet a rogue man who tests their relationship.
Here, in a film directed by Edith Carlmar (Norway's first female film director), and written by her husband, Otto Carlmar, and Niels Johan Rud, Ullman is fierce and headstrong; exuding a confidence in her desires and right to be who she is that hits hard, making it clear why she went on to be a star.
She plays Gerd, a party girl with whom Anders (played by Atle Merton) has fallen in love. He is from a reserved, middle-class family, and early on we learn he is soon to leave for university. When his mother won't allow him to bring Gerd on a family camping holiday however, he steals his father's car and takes Gerd away to a remote cabin where they can be alone.
It's the films non-judgemental approach to sex and desire that is most surprising. I'm so used to a strict and rigid morality (especially in films from the mid-20th century) that I found half-way through that I was waiting on a comeuppance that the film is not interested in delivering.
This is not to say that life is easy for the characters but the film is not interested in moralising. When Ander's father and Gerd's mother head out together to track them down, Gerd's mother speaks openly of the promiscuity of her daughter and the possibility of her now being pregnant. It's clear this surprises Ander's father but he accepts her openness with no more than a raised eyebrow. That they subsequently find the young couple naked is treated as annoying for the youths and nothing else.
So it was more than half-way through the movie before I was able to more clearly see what the film was pointing at. The movie is concerned with Gerd, and the possibility of change. Gerd's mother evinces no desire to see Gerd change - she had Gerd out of wedlock, was often absent during her childhood thanks to the need to work, and she takes to her daughter's hookup with the middle-class Anders with a certain glee - however Anders very much wants Gerd to change. He has fallen in love with her, with her beauty and wildness and authenticity, but contradictorily, he wants to tame her, to make her fit in with his pre-planned life. He thinks it is the city, and her wicked friends who are ruining her so, for him, the trip to the cabin is a return to some pre-fall Eden where Gerd will be happy away from temptation. But even before a snake shows up, Gerd is not sure this place is for her. She oscillates between delight in their idyllic freedom, and disgust at the lack of prepared food, cigarettes, and coke. She loves to swim as far as she can in the lake but yearns too to dance in a nightclub. We see that, away from the distractions of others, she is filled with self-doubt, knowing that men, and maybe Anders, only want her for her body, and yet, unsure of what else she has to offer.
The question then is; will this work? Will Gerd change? Should she? Is it the city that induces waywardness or is it innate? What will it take for her to be happy? The answers seems to be going well for Anders until a stranger shows up. Gerd is attracted to this mans equally wild disregard for the conventions of polite society, and the tension between the three of them is the knot that the film picks at.
Merton's Anders is, unfortunately, a bit of a drip for most of the run time, though there are flashes of anger when he doesn't get his way which hint at the darker desires and more rounded portrayal that might have been. As it is, it is hard to see what Gerd sees in him. When Rolf Soder as the stranger shows up, it's easy to see why Gerd finds him alluring; he's charming but dangerous. This imbalance between the men is a deficiency that the film just can't overcome. What consistently saves it though is the delicious heat from Ullman as she revels in her casual power over both of them.
I won't reveal what happens but I can say I liked that things were left a little ambiguous at the end. A new equilibrium has been reached, how long it can last is an open question; it will require work and understanding on all sides. That understanding is a more mature and considered conclusion than I expected.
The Wayward Girl is, like its heroine, fun with a streak of darkness. If it's viewed today only because of Ullman, that's okay, but it seems a great shame that director Carlmar never made another film. She and the writers have a sensitivity to human nature that would be interesting to see more of.
- Jan 17, 2021