Feels like The Silence remade with the visual style of Autumn Sonata, and minus my favorite part (little Johan and the colorful characters he meets in the hotel). So we’re left with two sisters who hate each other and a dying third sister whom they both hate. All the relentless grim hopelessness is killing my Bergman-love momentum that started with Monika, Magician and Smiles… after this, I was gonna rewatch Persona, but instead I watched some sci-fi movies about the death of all humanity (Alien 6 and the Resident Evil series) and those seemed relatively upbeat.

Agnes (Harriet Andersson: Monika, the daughter in Through a Glass Darkly) is deathly ill in bed, tended by the maid Anna. Liv Ullmann (Ingrid’s daughter in Autumn Sonata) plays bright-eyed sister Maria and also their mom in flashbacks, and Ingrid Thulin (Winter Light, The Magician) is dark-haired older sister Karin.

Maria is cheating with the Doctor: Erland Josephson, baron of Hour of the Wolf

“Pray for those of us left behind on this dark and miserable earth beneath a cruel and empty sky.”

D’Angelo didn’t love it: “The dour humorlessness; the mannered performances; the ticking clocks that infiltrate portentous silences with metronomic reminders of mortality; the overwrought arias of verbal cruelty; the expository flashbacks; the random mood swings designed merely to startle…it’s as close as he ever came to self-parody.” Wonder if Mike has seen Hour of the Wolf, which I thought was even more self-parody.

Undead Agnes comforted by Maid Anna:

Scene transitions are accompanied by haunted whispers on the soundtrack, and the overall look is a rich red, red, red, populated by some of the most beautiful actresses in the world. So maybe I should try appreciating it as a gorgeous horror movie. A Kogonada video explains the structural and thematic brilliance, and has a happier ending than the film itself.

Ingrid Thulin at dinner:

Nominated for five oscars including picture, and won best cinematography over The Exorcist. Day for Night won best foreign film, for which this movie wasn’t nominated – strange. Played Cannes out of competition – the only movie I’ve seen from that year’s fest is O Lucky Man!

Supposedly Bergman’s only horror film, but what, the rape/revenge film that inspired Last House on the Left and the most toxic family relations I’ve ever seen and tormented people leading meaningless lives and dead men coming to life and plagues, burning at the stake and death incarnate don’t count as horror anymore?

This one does have phantoms, shaky reality and dangerous insanity, and opens the way horror films do today, claiming to be based on some evidence (in this case a diary) left behind after a disappearance. Liv Ullmann (Autumn Sonata) speaks into camera, setting up the rest of the film as a flashback, her summer on an island with painter husband Max von Sydow.

Liv’s actually the first one to see a phantom, a sweet old woman (216 years old, played by Naima Wifstrand, Granny in The Magician) who says Liv should read Max’s diary while he’s away. So when others start appearing to Max, I’m not sure if they’re real or not. There’s Baron Erland Josephson (a skeptic in The Magician, a madman in Nostalghia) with an invitation to his castle, Max’s naked ex-girlfriend Veronica Vogler (Ingrid Thulin, also a Vogler in The Magician), and a psychiatrist who Max knocks down in anger. Later Max and Liv attend a dinner party with the Baron and the psychiatrist and others (including Gudrun Brost, the clown’s exhibitionist wife in Sawdust & Tinsel, and Gertrud Fridh, Sjöström’s wife in Wild Strawberries), and they seem real enough, but Max’s state of mind is in question – he sweats as the camera whip-pans from one babbling nut to another.

The opening title appears a second time, like an intermission in a 90-minute film. The second party at the castle is less sane. Max is repeatedly promised that he’ll get to see Veronica, while the other guests show off: the Baron walks on the walls, a woman removes her face, Max is given lipstick and eyeliner and taken to meet the still-naked, possibly-dead Veronica, whereupon he states: “The mirror has been shattered. But what do the pieces reflect?” Later Liv tells us he came home and shot at her, then disappeared into the woods.

I actually think Bergman’s movies are more frightening when he’s not trying to be so Halloweeny:

Bergman’s follow-up to Persona, and they seem to have a lot in common, with dialogue about people who live together becoming alike. The DVD extras are awfully repetitive, but Marc Gervais has a few useful things to say, that Bergman’s films of this time were about personality disintegration, also his darkest and most self-conscious period (sounds of film production run under the opening titles).

Final theatrical film of the two Bergmans (since Fanny & Alexander was shot for television), and each Bergman got an oscar nomination (as did two unrelated songwriters named Bergman that year), but were no match for Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Began shooting three days after I was born. First Bergman film I’ve seen shot in color, except for Saraband which I barely remember.

Opens with Liv Ullmann’s pastor husband narrating to us about her. Later Ingrid will speak aloud as in a play. There are flashbacks (either remembered or imagined) and a nightmare scene, all more theatrical and artificial than the other Bergmans I’ve been watching. It makes sense to watch this right after The Silence, which is also about two family members revealing their hatred for each other over the course of a night and day. However, I’d heard The Silence was one of Bergman’s top masterpieces, and I liked this one better – thought the conflict had a better and more explicable build-up.

So Ingrid plays the famed concert pianist mother of Liv, who has a more modest life in the country with her husband. Unbeknown to Ingrid, Liv is also housing her disabled younger sister Helena (Lena Nyman of I Am Curious), whose presence shakes Ingrid, reminding her of her failures as a mother, which Liv reminds her more and more about until Ingrid is driven from the house for what seems like the final time, riding home on a train alongside Winter Light‘s Gunnar Bjornstrand. It’s all very intense and poisonous and makes you wonder about Ingmar’s obsession with family members’ simmering hatred for each other. Looks absolutely splendid, though.

Watched some of the extras – played through the commentary but didn’t have the stamina for the full 3.5-hour making-of, right after watching the similar full-length doc about Winter Light.