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The Rite (1969)

Riten (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | TV Movie 18 September 1969
A theatre troupe is called to court because of obscene performance material and an interrogation ensues, which causes them to expose their neuroses and inner psychological torments.


Ingmar Bergman


Ingmar Bergman




Complete credited cast:
Ingrid Thulin ... Thea Winkelmann
Anders Ek ... Sebastian Fisher
Gunnar Björnstrand ... Hans Winkelmann
Erik Hell ... Judge Dr. Abrahamson
Ingmar Bergman ... Priest


A judge in an unnamed country interviews three actors, together and singly, provoking them while investigating a pornographic performance for which they may face a fine. Their relationships are complicated: Sebastian, volatile, a heavy drinker, in debt, guilty of killing his former partner, is having an affair with that man's wife. She is Thea, high strung, prone to fits, and seemingly fragile, currently married to Sebastian's new partner, Hans. Hans is the troupe leader, wealthy, self-contained, growing tired. The judge plays on the trio's insecurities, but when they finally, in a private session with him, perform the masque called The Rite, they may have their revenge Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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French certificate: 13 (theatrical release). See more »


Sebastian Fisher: Not only are you nasty and repulsive, you're a crap actor to boot. Your acting in the past few minutes is among the worst I've ever seen. You're ruthless, immoral and rotten. People like you don't deserve to live.
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User Reviews

Small and not entirely successful
22 November 2019 | by davidmviningSee all my reviews

Made for television in the late 60s, The Rite is a very small film from Bergman. It's not just small in visual scope, but also small in narrative focus, which seriously limits its appeal.

I actually didn't really get the film at the end of the screening and did as I always do with these. I grabbed the book from the Criterion collection and read the essay on the film. I think the reason the movie's point passed me by while watching it, assuming the essay was correct, was because the film is all about actors and their art form interacting with the world.

I've had discussions recently about how inward focusing storytelling can have both expanded and limiting effects. I used Bergman as my example for how it can be expansive (the Silence trilogy is a great example of taking one man's inner questions and packaging them in ways that other people can understand), but I think The Rite could be a counterpoint from the same artist. An artist's issues with dealing with the real world, using their talents to forge their own place in it and fight against the forces attacking them, is oddly specific. I could imagine a story about that that would speak to a broader audience, generalizing the experience in ways that speak to people not focused on the very specific question, but Bergman makes no effort to do that. Instead of generalizing, he specifies, pushing away those not in the same spot.

Three actors are brought before a civil judge about charges around a performance of theirs. It's unclear what in the performance caused the meeting, but over a series of interviews and conversations, it becomes obvious that the performance itself is secondary. The judge wants to take part. The actors want to tear down the judge. It all culminates in a performance that includes quasi-religious ritual, nudity, and wooden phalluses, none of which is handled sexually. Bergman, being the intelligent storyteller he is, isn't creating empty spectacle, but the rite that ends the film really is in service to something that I cannot really get a grasp onto, at least on one viewing.

This is what trust in a director does. I don't think The Rite works as a film, but because Bergman has reached such highs before, I'm more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in certain ways. In fact, out of all the movies of his that I don't think really work (there are now a grand total of 4 out of the 26 I've watched), this one is the one I'm most willing to give another shot.

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Release Date:

18 September 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Rite See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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