Some would say that love affairs are a cry from the heart. As a filmmaker, the obvious expression is to let the protagonists have sex a lot, go a bit loopy-loo, start shouting at each other and end with daggers drawn. Ingmar Bergman ignores such a banal approach. He is an explorer of the human soul.

Even during his period as a director, he was more interested in words. Faithless, like Scenes From A Marriage, is a talkie. At times, it resembles a monologue, as Marianne recounts the story of her infidelity. The writing is so intuitive, the emotions so tangled and the performance of Lena Endre so breathtakingly true that all thoughts of voyeuristic eroticism are dismissed as irrelevant.

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Marianne is happily married to Marcus, an internationally renowned conductor. They have a daughter, Isabelle. Marcus's best friend is David, a theatre director, whose charm, for what it's worth, does not depend on professional success. In fact, things are not going well for him. "David was out of sorts," she remembers. "He drank too much." Not that you would notice. He appears sluggish and slow, lacking Marcus's energy and sex appeal.

One evening, when Marcus is away, he suggests to Marianne that they sleep together. She laughs. The idea has never occurred to her. "Thanks for the offer," she says, with a smile.

Anyway, it happens. She's not sure why. Or how. Suddenly: "I'm in a state of chaos I can't describe."

The affair takes wing on a trip to Paris, where she discovers his jealousy. It is a kind of violence she has never experienced and she is afraid of it, for a moment.

"I carry failure around," he says. "My whole life's a wreck."

She responds by embracing the treachery ("We sink deeper into each other"), as if Marcus and, to a lesser extent, Isabelle, belongs to another life.

Liv Ullman directs with a clarity of purpose that is reflected in Bergman's script and Endre's performance. The intensity and wonder of this triumvirate has an hypnotic hold. Emotion is a foreign country. Understanding the language takes forever, or not at all.

"Inside Marianne is another person with no name." Love is blind. As well as mad. "I'm searching for answers to questions I never asked."

Bergman's understanding of women has always been his forte, never more so than here. Not everything works as well. The concept of having Marianne appear as a ghost, if it is Marianne, or a muse, to the aging director in his work room, complicates, rather than enhances, the storytelling. It's like therapy. Also, Erland Josephson, as David, pales before the brilliance of Endre. He seems miscast, neither a natural charmer, nor a sensual animal.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A woman tells the tale of her infidelity.
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Nicola Osborne ***1/2

Director: Liv Ullmann

Writer: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Lena Endre, Erland Josephson, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon, Michelle Gylemo, Juni Dahr, Phillip Zanden, Therese Brunnander, Marie Richardson, Stina Ekblad

Year: 2000

Runtime: 155 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Sweden


EIFF 2000

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