Ingmar Bergman's touch is unmistakable throughout this intense look at a marriage, its failure and the impact of the characters' subsequent actions. Directed by long time Bergman collaborator Liv Ullmann this is a sensitive and slow-moving piece examining each person and their actions at length.

As Marianne tells her life to an observer who is clearly a Bergman figure working on a film of the story (apparently one of many self-reverential touches), various scenes are seen in flashback so that a full portrait can be build up from memories of relationships with husband Markus, his friend and her lover David, and her young daughter Isabelle.

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At a running time of over two and a half hours the film offers added gravitas using the involvement with the characters and the slow pace to magnify key events to epic and meaningful encounters. Lane Endre is simply stunning as Marianne, a woman filled with regrets and a deep love of her daughter that eventually causes her huge pain - something translated as incredibly real tears during her retelling. Meanwhile the actress playing Isabelle is either highly talented or perfectly cast (I suspect a bit of both) and she is heart-breaking when combined with Endre. The men of the piece are slightly less impressive and while Markus is the apparently perfect - if often absent - husband, David's attractiveness soon rather wears off as an alarmingly violent streak is discovered.

For a film about a divorce and several failed relationships this is impressive and, while not adding anything especially new to the subject does bring something unique to frequently heard arguments. Though Bergman is tangibly present, Ullmann has a lightness and sensitivity to her characters, especially her lead, that makes the film entirely her own achievement.

Perhaps mildly less bleak than it might be with a strong feeling of optimism until very late in the film, this is nevertheless not a happy story by anyone's standards with an especially miserable ending. However by focusing on Marianne's face much of the time we see the full play of many emotions making this misery a very personal experience rather than a general mood.

Adultery and divorce have never looked so depressing. If it can get a little wearing at times this should not detract from its strangely beautiful cinematography and intense humanity.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2001
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A woman tells the tale of her infidelity.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***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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