2000, Movie, R, 142 mins


Brilliantly acted and lugubriously paced, Liv Ullmann's fourth feature as director — the second written by her mentor, Ingmar Bergman — will no doubt be manna to those who miss the brilliant acting and lugubrious pace that characterized Bergman's late-period films. Others, however, may find this doleful dissection of a marriage undone by adultery tough going. According to Ullmann, the story is based on an incident from Bergman's own past, and she uses the figure of an elderly, ailing writer named "Bergman" (Erland Josephson) to literally conjure an actress named Marianne Vogel (Lena Endre) from the shadows of his memory. Over the next few days, Marianne tells him the story of how her marriage to Markus (Thomas Hanzon), a world-renowned orchestra conductor, ended in catastrophe. After 11 years of wedded bliss, Marianne embarks on a reckless affair with Markus' best friend David (Krister Henriksson), a temperamental film director. But what begins as a lark takes a sudden turn for the passionate before the whole thing explodes in Marianne's face: When Markus finds out, he demands custody of their nine-year-old daughter Isabelle (Michelle Gylemo), and a bitter, ultimately tragic battle ensues. The whole sad affair is told through a series of flashbacks with commentary from Marianne. But for all the rumination, a crucial question goes unanswered: What, exactly, does Marianne see in a pathologically jealous loser like David, other than the fact that he's not her husband? Her motives never become clear, not even to herself; Marianne appears to destroy her family more out of perversity than passion. Endre is frighteningly good — she captures every nuance of joy and anguish with an expressiveness that recalls no one so much as Ullmann herself — but Marianne remains remote, a cipher still half-hidden in Bergman's shadows. (In Swedish, with English subtitles.) leave a comment --Ken Fos

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