Loving Couples (1964) Poster

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Bergman-influenced, but interesting.
Buster0074 July 2006
The story of three women from different, but related, backgrounds about to give birth in a hospital in Sweden around the start of World War I.

Via inter-cut flashbacks we are shown how they ended up in their situation.

Often beautiful Sven Nykvist photo and many great directorial flourishes from director Mai Zetterling makes this a treat.

The parallels with Bergman are many. For instance, apart from Mr. Nykvist, many of the actors have appeared in various Bergman productions, the themes dealt with here are very similar to various Bergman films, and so on. Dissimilar enough to be interesting though.

Has some very interesting scenes that I would imagine were very controversial at the time, such as two gay men frolicking and getting mock-married in a church, a graphic shot of a baby's birth, some female nudity, a lesbian kiss, etc..
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gbill-7487723 September 2020
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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in many ways well-crafted, but also dry and uninteresting
planktonrules8 July 2006
Technically speaking, this is a good film--with decent cinematography and production values. But, while it is a competent film, I also found myself wanting to turn off the DVD repeatedly because I just didn't find myself at all interested. There are a variety of reasons, though the biggest of which is because it seemed as if I'd seen all this before in various Ingmar Bergman movies--in particular, THE BRINK OF LIFE ("Nära livet"--1958). Also , the angst and sense of isolation and fruitlessness of life was pervasive and just made me feel depressed. After watching this film, I could easily say that the overall message of the film is "life stinks and love is a sham,...then you die".

Now this does NOT mean that I think all movies must be upbeat or positive in tone--far from it. But even a grim movie can be great and compelling when you feel SOME connection to the characters. For example, I just recently saw De Sica's THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING. It is a major tear-jerker and is the extremely sad story about the break up of a marriage and its impact on a child. BUT, I really cared about De Sica's characters and cared absolutely nothing for Zetterling's. Of the three women featured in the film, one was a lady of privilege with little depth or personality, one a bubble-headed servant and the other a bitter and nasty soul. I just wanted them all to go away and leave me alone!

Now as for this being a controversial film--which it definitely was when it debuted in the 1960s. The nudity but especially the themes of homosexuality and lesbianism were pretty controversial for its day, though by today's standards it's all pretty tame. I still wouldn't let my kids watch the film, but not just because of the nudity and themes but because I love my kids too much to make them watch such an unappealing film.
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Motherhood as a premise that need not constitute destiny
philosopherjack5 March 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The last shot of Mai Zetterling's amazing Loving Couples places all that precedes it in a kind of stark biological perspective - an extended, highly clinical shot of a newly born baby, the edges of the screen closing in on it, emphasizing its potential domination of its mother's immediately shrunken world. It's not quite that straightforward though, because just a few moments earlier we've witnessed a birth in which the mother's free spirit seems less likely to be vanquished as a result, and a few moments before that a still-startling shot of the disposal of a stillborn delivery. That is, contrary to the sense of oppressive uniformity that opens the movie, placing the three expectant women (whose lives will all be seen to be intertwined) in the same stark hospital, Zetterling establishes motherhood as a premise that need not constitute destiny, while being realistic about the odds that it may. Her film is enormously rich and expansive, charting a bourgeois society rife with adultery and unfulfilled desire, at various points encompassing both male and female homosexuality, alluding to masturbation as a response to a dull marriage, and near the end staging a stunningly cynical wedding ceremony, in which the pregnant bride spends the wedding night with her lover rather than with her husband, a gay man basically paid to provide the pending child an official father. But it's also alert to momentary pleasures (and, in the case of one of the women, the corrosive feeling of being excluded from them) and to the complexity of motives and reactions, radiating awareness of and respect for the multiplicity of reasonings that drive women's decisions. Men aren't exactly dumped on here, but they certainly seem like relative fixed points, their political and social dominance amounting to a kind of embalming (to be periodically disrupted by a war of the kind that percolates in the background).
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un film derivativo
redsun529 June 2004
Both in the ambiance and in its women's themes in this movie you can see unequivocally Bergman's influences. In particular It recalls Bergman's SECRETS OF WOMEN (1952)for the cast ( It's almost the same!)and for its episodic structure. The psychological search on women universe is another important link.

Anyway, although Mai Zetterling had abused it in her movies, I think that the flashback use is very interesting in this movie. It becomes, with the editing help, a concrete tragic matter and not only a way to tell the story. I give it a 6.
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boblipton17 September 2020
Three women at a lying-in hospital reflect on how they got there in Mai Zetterling's first feature as a director.

I was surprised at how Bergmanesque this movie was, although not as overtly cerebral. Of course a good deal of that can be attributed to the presence of Harriet Anderson, one of Bergman's frequent leading ladies, and Sven Nyquist being the cinematographer; but while it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it doesn't quack like a duck. Instead of Bergman's meditation on keeping society going in a G*dless universe, it considers woman's place in a society run for the benefit and pleasure of its men; and the continuation of society depends more on popping out babies, a process which the women don't have on their minds when they get pregnant. Bergman may mourn the absence of G*d, but to Zetterling, He's irrelevant.
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The Power in the Feminine
ricardojorgeramalho31 December 2022
A cynical view of marriage and love relationships in Sweden in 1914. In a totally patriarchal society women are left to use sex and motherhood as a form of power, which effectively gives them a substantial slice of influence but does not bring them any happiness.

If women's destiny is to seek love, as one of the characters says, we don't see it at all in this film. It is forbidden to them by the established social model.

Due to Nykvist's beautiful cinematography and a lot of excellent actors that we are used to see in Bergman's movies, this would even seem, at first glance, to be a film by this director. But, unlike Bergman, who always imprints a strong ethical sense on his stories, here we are at the opposite end of the spectrum, a complete cynicism when it comes to human and social values. This is a real world, a dog world and not a principled world.

A pleasant surprise.
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