Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ingmar Bergman's Saraband

Went to see Bergman's Saraband yesterday. It was freezing cold outside but, as I realized later, it was nothing as compared to the coldness of Bergman's world! Saraband is a sequel (of sorts) to Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, a film which I have not yet seen. But in a way, it is not unlike his other late films Autumn Sonata or Cries and Whispers too -- it contains the same emotional brutality and full scale warfare of emotions played almost as a duet (every scene, many of which are almost monologues, has two characters either confessing something painful or hurting each other). I had expected Bergman to have mellowed down with age (he is eighty six now) and get into the romantic, nostalgia mode but I couldn't have been more wrong. His severe, harsh and painful honesty coupled with all the angst will put most of the younger art house filmmakers to shame.

The film almost feels like a filmed theatre. At few places still photographs replace static shots of landscape. Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson reprise their roles from Scenes as the squabbling couple Marianne and Johan, although it seems now they have made peace with life or perhaps they have only passed all the angst and pain to the next generation. Henrik is the middle aged son of Johan from an earlier marriage who is still grieving for his dead wife and is helplessly dependent emotionally on his daughter Karin (played by a young actress who is astonishingly good, perfectly eligible to enter the pantheon of all those Bergman actresses). In fact, the emotional codependency between father and daughter almost borders on incest! All of this, of course, leads to more and more pain in the end.

It is easy to dismiss films like these on the grounds that the characters and scenarios are not "convincing". And of course it is difficult to emotionally "identify" with a character who reads Kierkegaard and listens to Bach and then treats his children in a thoroughly monstrous and callous manner. The father-daughter relationship is also too bizarre to be called "representative". The screening I went to, had a few people even laughing at a few scenes, which I thought were rather painful. Perhaps the laughter was just an emotional defence mechanism. The film is about the costs of emotional honesty and self-examination. It is also about the paradoxical nature of love and freedom -- love which stifles and suffocates (the "sticky" love, as one of the characters exclaims) and freedom which leaves us full of existential angst.

The music box theatre was showing a double bill of Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany's on the occasion of the "valentine's day" week. But I chose to see Saraband instead. Not a bad choice at all. Specially given that I would have gone to casablanca alone too ! :)

Link to a review from Chicago Tribune which also explains the meaning of the title.


km said...

They're screening "Saraband" in a local film-appreciation class type thing tonight...seems a *little* heavy for a frozen Monday evening :)

I have no choice but to see Casablanca wife finds it very annoying that I am constantly shouting back the dialogues at the characters.

Btw, what part of the country are you in?

Alok said...

I hope you don't sing along as time goes by... :)

I am in Chicago. It is not snowing here but it is still quite cold.

km said...

No, I don't sing with Sam, but I do yell "of all the gin joints in the world..." and "The germans wore gray. You wore blue", among other things.

Caught Sidney Lumet's "Network" over the weekend. Good film, but I think it has lost some of its bite.

Alok said...

Man! you make me want to go to the movie now! I haven never seen it on big screen anyway! It might even do some good for the frozen heart, who knows :)

Haven't seen Network. In fact I have seen embarassingly few American classics. I am mostly catching up with the European ones for the last two years. Too many films too little time :(

anurag said...

Your post has prompted me to see 'Scenes from a Marriage' but I suppose either 'Scenes..' or 'Saraband' are not as brutal and painful as 'Cries and Whispers' which somehow beats even 'Piano Teacher' in its coldness by being more emotionally brutal.

Alok said...

Man! Why are you remembering all those movies today ? ;)

I think it is useless to decide which one was more depressing and brutal but at least C&W didn't have porn and rape!