With the name Ingmar Bergman attached to a film, you know you can look forward to a smorgasbord of angst, introspection and family woes. And Saraband does not disappoint. Revisiting characters from 1974's Scenes From A Marriage, the octogenarian autuer demonstrates he still has the magic touch, weaving a potent drama of tortured emotions from the wreckage of a marriage long since dissolved but which, after thirty-odd years, refuses to vanish completely.
After decades without contact, Marianne (Liv Ullmann) is compelled to see her ex-husband Johan (Erland Josephson) and renew their friendship. But she walks into an emotional minefield: Johan can barely contain his contempt for widower son Henrik (Börge Ahlstedt) while granddaughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius) is desperate to escape Henrik's suffocating idea of fatherly love. The story unfolds in clearly defined chapters, always featuring just two characters, allowing Bergman to slowly reveal the loneliness and alienation grinding away inside each of them, whether as a result of ageing, death or self-imposed exile.
"CONFINED SETS AND LINGERING CLOSE-UPS"
Like Scenes From A Marriage and much of his most recent work, Saraband was originally made for television and Bergman uses the confined sets and lingering close-ups characteristic of TV drama to wring every last drop of conviction from the excellent cast. While this acts as an epilogue to his previous film, it stands as a distinct work in its own right and although Bergman aficionados may feel they've seen much of it before. But even if it is, as he claims, his last film, Saraband will be a testament to Bergman's skill as a filmmaker, still a creative force to be reckoned with after 60-plus years in the business.
In Swedish with English subtitles.