Stockholm, 1915. Three women, Agda, Adele and Angela are about to give birth in a clinic. All three recall their past, especially the circumstances that led them to this hospital room. Agda, a housemaid made pregnant by a young middle-class man, has just married a homosexual artist. Adele, married to a farmer, suffers from frigidity, and is expecting a baby which is practically the product of a rape by her husband. As for Angela, a young woman from aristocratic background, she is waiting to give life to an illegitimate child after throwing herself into the arms of fifty-year-old Casanova. In these conditions will the three children to be born be happy?Written by
Comparisons to Bergman are inevitable as there are many similarities - the themes (resembling those in Brink of Life and Smiles of a Summer Night), cast (Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Eva Dahlbeck), and even cinematographer (the immortal Sven Nykvist). However, Mai Zetterling makes this film her own, showing a distinctly female point of view in this story of three women about to give birth at a hospital. We see misogyny in the various patriarchal figures, one of whom is a pedophile, but we see that even in a male-dominated world, women are empowered in their sexuality. This includes lesbian attraction, romps in the woods, becoming pregnant out of wedlock, and marrying a gay man to conceal the true father. It's pretty daring stuff for 1964. The real theme seems to be to show "loving couples" as they actually are, and how the world works behind a veneer of respectability.
The film is extremely strong in its first half with some gorgeous scenes outdoors, including a flashback to a funeral in a stunning birch forest, and a walk through flowering orchards at a girl's boarding school. They provide quite a contrast to the scenes in the hospital, with those squeaky gurney wheels rattling down halls that "look like prison" as a doctor puts it, and images looking up from the patient's perspective. Through flashbacks we gradually come to understand the three women's stories, and how their lives intersect, but unfortunately the plot unravels a bit as it plays out, getting messy and harder to follow than it should have been. It's a very good film, one with lots of beautiful moments and one I enjoyed, but could have been even better with stronger storytelling.
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