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The Serpent's Egg (1977)

Following the suicide of his beloved brother and deaths of even the most distant acquaintances, Abel Rosenberg attempts to discover the truth while facing depression, alcoholism, and anti-semitism.

Director:

Ingmar Bergman

Writer:

Ingmar Bergman (a film by)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Liv Ullmann ... Manuela Rosenberg
David Carradine ... Abel Rosenberg
Gert Fröbe ... Inspector Bauer (as Gert Froebe)
Heinz Bennent ... Hans Vergerus
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Toni Berger ... Mr. Rosenberg
Christian Berkel ... Student
Paula Braend Paula Braend ... Mrs. Hemse
Erna Brünell Erna Brünell ... Mrs. Rosenberg (as Erna Bruenell)
Paul Bürks Paul Bürks ... Cabaret Comedian (as Paul Buerks)
Gaby Dohm Gaby Dohm ... Woman with baby
Emil Feist Emil Feist ... Miser
Kai Fischer ... Prostitute
Georg Hartmann Georg Hartmann ... Hollinger
Edith Heerdegen Edith Heerdegen ... Mrs. Holle
Klaus Hoffmann Klaus Hoffmann ... Commando Announcer
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Storyline

Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg follows a week in the life of Abel Rosenberg, an out-of-work American circus acrobat living in poverty-stricken Berlin following Germany's defeat in World War I. When his brother commits suicide, Abel seeks refuge in the apartment of an old acquaintance Professor Veregus. Desperate to make ends meet in the war-ravaged city, Abel takes a job in Veregus' clinic, where he discovers the horrific truth behind the work of the strangely beneficent professor and unlocks the chilling mystery that drove his brother to kill himself. Written by Leigh Thomas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The suspense no one can equal, by Bergman. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA | West Germany

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

15 February 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Schlangenei See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

DEM 12,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie was made by Ingmar Bergman during a period of self-imposed exile for charges of tax evasion. Bergman originally fled to Paris, France but didn't like it there, and went to West Germany, and ended up making a deal to make an English language feature to be shot there. See more »

Goofs

The Nazi-looking thugs that are beating up people are wearing Model 1943 German army caps and 1940s style clothing. This film is supposed to take place in the 1920s. See more »

Quotes

Inspector Bauer: So what does Inspector Bauer do? Inspector Bauer does his job. He tries to create a little patch of order and reason in the midst of chaos. And hes not alone, Rosenberg. All over Germany, millions and millions of petty officials, just as terrified, are doing exactly the same. You get drunk every day, huh? Thats also respectable, Rosenberg. But Id be happier if you swung on your trapeze with your pals. That way youd fight your fear more effectively.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Play It Again, Hristo (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Das Lied vom süssen Bonbon
(uncredited)
Music by Rolf A. Wilhelm
Lyrics by Rolf A. Wilhelm and Kurt Wilhelm
Performed by Liv Ullmann
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Occasionally fascinating, more often pointless
11 December 1999 | by slawmanSee all my reviews

This must have seemed like such a great idea at the time. Put Ingmar Bergman (arguably one of the finest filmmakers of our time) at the helm of a big-budget international horror film starring the notable David Carradine and his can-do-no-wrong leading lady Liv Ullmann. As a concept, it's faultless; as a film, it's amazing this has as many moments as it does.

Taking place over a period of one week (November 3-11) in 1923 Berlin, "The Serpent's Egg" zeroes in on two desperate characters who are slowly overtaken by the horror of their situation. The country has virtually come apart around them; the German mark is practically worthless, unemployment is astronomical, and Adolf Hitler is laying the plans for his first attempt to seize power. Abel Rosenberg (Carradine) and Manuela (Ullmann) are out-of-work circus performers whose third partner Max (Abel's brother) commits suicide in the opening of the film. The rest of the movie concerns itself with their gradual awakening to the horrors perpetuated by their current employer Vergerus (Heinz Bennett).

Actually, the rest of the movie concerns itself with taking as hysterical and pessimistic view of life as possible. While not entirely unfamiliar to Bergman's fans, here the gloom is so all-pervasive and the time and place so alien, that the film is often nearly impossible to sit through. It becomes instead a movie of moments, each breaking out of the general tedium to grab the viewer by the throat.

The opening is brilliant, and promises something really special. Likewise, the rat-infested piles of garbage are not something the viewer is likely to forget. But the conclusion they build up to is disappointing and unenlightening. Worst of all, we know no more about the characters at the end of the film than we did at the outset (Liv Ullmann, whose performance is wonderful considering the circumstances, has virtually nonexistent character development to work with).

Any fan of Bergman should try to see this once, if only for the light it sheds on his other films of the period, and his personal turmoil at that moment in time. Casual viewers need not apply.


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