Apparently suppressed to legitimized the De Laurentis-Anthony Quinn movie drawn from the same Pär Lagerkvist novel, this Swedish master piece comes in a run of outstanding films which made Sjöberg one of the great film makers. Unfortunately, like contemporaries Pietro Germi or Helmut Kaütner his work was not highlighted by critics (which tells you something about the process) and Sjöberg was totally overshadowed by Ingmar Bergman, with whom his career was interlaced. Bergman wrote some of the Sjöberg films. They later alternated National Theatre productions.
BARABBAS is one of Sjöberg's best and most daring productions. Though realized on a small scale, it manages to get through all the extreme material of the Biblical spectacles of the day - violent sex, lepers, the killing of the prosecutor while the woman is stoned, messy crucifixions. It has a realism in it's costuming and staging (the brothel sequence is particularly savage) and great performances - notably by Palme, the director's regular leading man.
With this, the film puts forward a complex argument, centering on the simple minded thief's trying to comprehend Christ, along with a striking structure where light changes indicated passing of time and the same shot represents different occasions.