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Much has been written about the unsympathetic central characters, particularly von Sydow's. For me there are flashes of a good (if flawed) man early in the film, but one who copes badly with adversity. The flaws become all that is left as his humanity is gradually eroded by one horror after another.
I watched A Passion (Ullmann and von Sydow on their island again) soon after this, and was amazed to recognise many of the same locations. And then there's a dream sequence...
Skammen is a darkly lit movie, that should be watched at night, so as to let it work it's magic. Many of the effects are conveyed indirectly, but so effectively that some scenes compete in intensity to a contemporary, insanely huge budget film like Saving Private Ryan. Of course, the action in Skammen is on a much smaller scale but it is impressive none-the-less.
While the film-making style feels contemporary, the setting of the film feels timeless and placeless. The war-torn countryside, and even the yet intact provincial hamlet could be anywhere, any time. And this film is not so much about specific historical events, with specific names and dates, but about universal human reactions to adversity and chaos.
The acting in Skammen, though typically impressive from Ullman and Sydow, is not of primary importance in this film, unlike most other Bergman movies. Through much of the film they are spectators, much as we are. Bergman has the war imposed on them, and through them on the audience, and their reaction is perhaps what any of our reactions might be.
Highly recommended. 10/10
I chose "Skammen" because I saw it recently and because I think the message -although being a 1968 film- is still valid. The subject is quite simple: a couple is surprised by war, which changes forever the existence of the two people. We can discover their real feelings and their real values.
We can find shame in more levels.
First, husband's shame for not being able of giving a child to his woman. He's also an extremely coward man in the first half of the movie, he feels shame also for that.
Second, wife's shame for not being a mother -she feels frustrated. She's shameful also because she has betrayed her man with an important man of their country's army.
Third. They both feel shame because they pretend being friends of this man, who saves them from tortures and jail. (They're actually accused of being traitors, in expressing other political opinions.) As a compensation, that man come to their home whenever he wants and take advantage of his position for becoming a woman's lover. The husband lets things going like this, it's the price he pays for a kind of freedom...
Fourth. Shameful is of course war and life during it.
Bergman makes a flawless movie, he studies people as they are. Without big budgets and huge sets. A simple film, deep, superbly photographed in black and white.
They see the tanks roll by, and a couple of old friends already getting worn down, but they try not to put it too much to heart; there's a sweet scene where the couple just talk, rather frankly but with heart (all one shot, as is repeated through the film is to perhaps create a sense of being provoked)...Then comes the trouble, including a fake film of propaganda made at gunpoint with the Rosenbergs, the psychological turmoil in being prisoners of war, and the terror involved with a 'friend' in the military (one of Gunnar Bjornstrand's most subtle works with Bergman). Needless to say this is not one of the easier films to go through in terms of Bergman's filmography, however for some it may be one of his more accessible works. His religious themes this time is kept very low key, even as the idea of keeping a sort of faith pervades the film's atmosphere. When there is war action it's shot in unconventional, quick ways (via great amigo Sven Nykvist).
And the deconstruction of the relationship between Jan and Eva is corresponded successfully with the backdrop of a chaotic kind of war-ground where the lines are never too surely drawn. In a way this film, shot right at the height of the worst times in Vietnam, is even more relevant for today; I couldn't help but see chilling, uncompromising coincidences between Iraq and elsewhere with some of Jan and Eva's scenes with the fighters, or those 'in charge'. The very last scene, by the way, is one of Bergman's very best, all around (acting, directing, lighting). It's not the kind of war picture (or, again, anti-war, I find little of the John Wayne spirit in this Svensk production) that I would recommend right off the bat to my friends all into Saving Private Ryan- it has a little more in kinship with Paths of Glory, looking at the effects of the hypocrisy of war. But in reality, like any of Bergman's "genre" films, it stands alone, however one that packs a wallop for the art-house crowd.
If there's a lesson to any of this, it may be that no one can afford to be ignorant of the issues and the world around them or else they will be ill-equipped to deal with them when they inevitably intrude on even the most isolated of lives.
The black and white cinematography is stunning and the suspense is often unbearable, especially when the couple finds themselves at the mercy of renegade soldiers who cannot be reasoned with. The downbeat and confusing ending, however, does not satisfy...it seems a bit pretentious and leaves the viewer feeling a bit cheated. Nevertheless, a worthwhile and engrossing film from a master director.
But I definitely do not regret to have gone on watching it. It is one of the most beautiful Bergman movies I've ever seen, at the same time human, ruthless and psychologically so convincing.
Seldom have I seen actors play so wonderfully, with such an intensity on their faces : Liv Ullman's interpretation is unforgettable and Sydow is excellent too.
There is always psychological violence in Bergman movies, and this one may be the most physically violent of them all. The strained relationships between the man and the woman evolve in parallel with the physical violence that is surrounding them...
Finally, this sober, violent and powerful film contains a surprisingly striking human depth. An excellent Bergman.
"Shame" is an antiwar movie by the master Ingmar Bergman focused by the eyes of a couple of artists that are apolitical and does not listen to the news, but when the war arrives to their lands, they have their love, friendship and affection destroyed by the senseless soldiers. Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow have top-notch performances as usual and I do not recall seeing the breast of Liv Ullmann in any other movie. The process of brutalization of the pacific and sensitive Jan Rosenberg by the war is impressive and the bleak open conclusion is pessimist and adequate to the dramatic story. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Vergonha" ("Shame")
I specifically noticed the remarkable camera angles Bergman used to illustrate his points. He often shows the back of Jan's head which suggests that his wife is the more dominant of the two. There are also intense close-ups and effective over the shoulder shots. Shame is an impressive film overall.
I did not feel that what we were being told about the characters was what we were being shown about the characters. We are supposed, so I believe, to feel that they are balanced: that he's a coward and she's a shrew. But despite that I was not convinced that von Sydow's character was a coward. Ullman's character married a musician who takes medication for a heart condition. As the film progressed I found myself disliking the Ullman character more and more. She henpecks him for this and that and emasculates him and cheats on him with Bjornstrand because he's in charge and thus more potent and only is repentant when he is ready to give up, it's nuts: she turns a gentle solicitous man into a madman who at the end when he puts on a scarf I was expecting him to tie on a headband.
Yes, the dehumanization of man is an overall theme as well: at the beginning they stop their car to see if people are okay but by the end they are poling their way over dead soldiers (not checking them for supplies, by the way), but it isn't really the war that does that to them, it seems to be each other. And finally she cares if they ever speak to one another again when she has pushed him until he has snapped and shot her lover; that finally gets him some respect. Who knows, maybe that is the point: that it is this alpha mindset that sets the stage for war to begin with.
I understand that I "missed the point." But everyone that speaks about this film speaks about the human race, when instead we watch a terrible wife character drive her poor husband insane: that's the thing that actually is on the screen throughout the film.
The couple of musicians, who left a big city for a remote island and make a living as farmers, find themselves capable of unspeakable and shameful acts that would have ordinarily been impossible for them even imagine, as they struggle to survive horrible reality of war. They betray their souls, their friends and even each other in a desperate attempt to simply survive another day. Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow are brilliant as usual as lost, confused, and terrified couple that got caught in the midst of a civil war.
The first time I saw this film was in class, and immediately after seeing it I had to skip my next class and walk around campus in order to reset my body and mind. I felt devastated and, somehow unreal, as if I didn't exist. It was only a few months later that I was telling one of my friends about SHAME, and she asked, "Oh, is that when you were messed up after seeing it, and ran into me talking all strange about it?" I didn't even remember running into or talking to anyone at all while outside that day, I was astonished.
In plot terms it is the simple tale of a couple torn apart by war. There suffering is greater than that of the dead and by the end...there are no words to complete the image that Bergman creates. Its like a horrible dream which causes you to wake, altering your own reality forever. This film must be seen.
The first half plays like a black comedy. We see the "fog of war" from the point of view of a comically passive couple who ignore the troops all around, the long convoys, the bombed-out buildings, the news reports, &c. They do not even bother to find a working radio. They are the ultimate in "Not in my backyard". They talk of wine and lingonberries; meanwhile friends are mysteriously conscripted and growing numbers of troops show up in the town. They show no curiosity about the war that has been going on around them for many years.
The man (Von Sydow) is cultured, sulky, and a navel-gazer; the woman (Ullman) is somewhat more impulsive, passionate, and outward-looking. There's a beautiful scene in which the man talks about his violin: the manufacturer, he says offhandedly, fought in the Napoleonic wars, but his own interest stops with the cultural artifact in his hand-- or, more precisely, which his own warm feelings about owning it, and the security that that ownership assumes. Not in my backyard! But when war finally breaks into their bucolic idyll, the man's timidity, an irritation in good times, turns into a liability, one he ends up overcompensating for-- as is often the case-- as Bergman demonstrates subtly and beautifully. Definitely worth seeing.
Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow star as wife and husband getting caught in the horrors of war. Although the war is shown mostly without epic battle scenes, rather shown just by soldiers marching by and fighter jets flying over, the sound of imminent doom is in every frame. 'Shame' is wonderful character study and what war does to a peoples' psychology. Max von Sydow's Jan is intelligent, but somewhat cowardly man. Some can even call him weak, while Liv Ullmann's Eva is strong and independent woman, who really cares about her husband. The character descriptions seem simple at first - strong wife, weak husband - but there's much more hidden in these people. Although Jan is not your typical macho guy, his intelligence compensate lot of his cowardice. And Eva, although strong woman, is still in need of some support from her husband. While the war comes closer and closer we see their relationship starting to fall apart, and then getting stronger again, until they get right into the middle of war horrors, with both sides riding over their farm. They both grow cold and stay together just for habit. Jan becomes cruel and violent, while Eva becomes not exactly submissive, but rather distant.
Bergman has stated his dissatisfaction with the film in several occasions, and never considered it his best work, but 'Shame' is must see film.
This is said by Eva, one of the protagonists of Ingmar Bergman's The Shame (Skammen, 1968). We are almost at the beginning of the film and, for us, she is a violinist turned peasant who is telling her dream. Little by little, as we enter the nightmare, we realize that the film itself is Eva's dream. Bergman's incubus. The dream the filmmaker makes us watchers dream. And as we wake up -when we live the cinema or when we finish the video- there is nothing to feel but shame for the human race. The story of Skammen is about descent into war and how wat gets into us even if we don't want to, even if we run away from it. The couple of musicians who have taken refuge in the countryside, as an unnamed war develops, want to be far and neutral. But war reaches them, transforms them, desintegrates them, turns them into pieces. There are two sides in this war. We don't know -as it usually happens with civil populations- who is right, but we understand, throughout the film, than both sides commit atrocities and that there is injustice. That people live war as a dead end, and in the process of running, accommodating or merely surviving, they degrade themselves. The film was made when memories of World War II were still fresh and when the Vietnam War raged on. But it's about all wars. A war anywhere, with anyone, and the chaos it can generate. External and internal, because there is emotional destruction, also. A war without end, because you can't run away from yourself, from your broken dreams, now distorted by the traumatic experience. There are hidden reason why one doesn't see a certain film in its moment. It's disheartening to realize that, half a century later, Skammen works exactly the same way (the same boat who sails from a Swedish island in a fictitious war, sails today from the coasts of Africa for the same reasons, with the same broken dreams and the same, horrifying, results.
At the end, one remains with a bitter feeling. Humankind has no remedy. What a shame.
Resume: First watch: 2018 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 7.5
As a civil war has engulfed the area in which they live, Jan Rosenberg (Max von Sydow) and Eva Rosenberg (Liv Ullmann) an apolitical couple who used to earn their living as musicians, grasp at the remnants of what used to be their lives. The war has encroached upon their relationship, as well as their livelihood. Jan is weepy and constantly dealing with the emotional disturbance over the chaos and killing the war has caused. Meanwhile, Eva desperately wants to have children, but her husband can't imagine bringing a child into the anxiety-ridden life they now share. When the war reaches their town, rebels attack killing many of Jan and Eva's neighbors. The couple is continuously harassed and their home eventually destroyed when the two are arrested as collaborators. No matter how far they run, there is no escaping the conflict that has taken over their lives.
Shame shows two people who purposefully don't take either side in a war, yet that very silence and unwillingness to take sides results in their being assumed collaborators. Bergman seems to go to great lengths through this film to not only show the necessity of remaining neutral in times of military conflict but also to expose how dangerous it is to hold such a position. Shame is powerful because it exposes the difficulty in actually living a situation where people are not shielded by the side they chose in a battle because they didn't choose a side at all. The couple only has each other and with a host of marital problems to deal with on their own, their lives are further complicated when life or death problems penetrate their existence. We get a glimpse of the security the two used to share before the horrors of war tore them apart outwardly. Inwardly, however, the two were experiencing difficulties which left their own marriage clouded in as much uncertainty as the world around them. In my viewing of Shame, the neutrality was the most interesting aspect as the audience is able to see clearly that the two had not chosen a dominant side for the future of their marriage, just as they hadn't shown a side to adhere to in the war. Using his trademark humanism, Bergman delves deep into a marriage and reveals that no matter how far we delve into the lives of others, we may still be none the wiser to what will happen to them.
Pauline Kael reviewed the film in December 1968, writing, "Shame is a masterpiece, – a vision of the effect of war on two people, – but – it has many characters and incidents – in many ways, (it is) Bergman's equivalent of Godard's Week End – also an account of what people do to survive – Liv Ullmann is superb in the demanding central role, – Gunnar Björnstrand is beautifully restrained as an aging man clinging to the wreckage of his life. The subject is our responses to death, but a work of art is a true sign of life." Bergman is always great, at least in the black and white era. I'm less a fan of his color films. But when you have that crisp, bleak back and white cinematography and Max von Sydow, you can do no wrong.