12 June 2002 | tobiasn
First the bad stuff .. 'Passion' has all the earmarks of a botched production: intercut in the film are interviews with the 4 leads. These seem to have been an afterthought. .. There is also a crucial missing sequence: the beginning of the romance between Andreas and Anna seems to have been cut out! Anna's later dream sequence does not look integral to the movie. Was it added later to make up for the missing running time? ... Not to mention the sub-plot involving the mysterious crimes on the island. I suggest the original script might have fleshed this part out more.
Of the four leads, the protagonist is the weakest characterization. The director has Andreas (Max Von Sydow) constantly nailing things and carrying buckets - to show what a phlegmatic man he is . In contrast, Andreas' acquaintance, the despicable architect Elis (Erland Josephson) is the best characterized .. When both Andreas and Eva (Bibi Andersson) say they say they really like the architect, it is almost as if they 'really' mean they admire the role and how Josephson plays it. The movie is that abstracted.
There is a 5-minute sequence near the end that is incongruent and pretentious, even for Bergman. ... not too far after that we get the the climax of the film - where Andreas and Anna reveal their 'real' attitudes to each other. This sequence is a bit confusing. When you think about it later, you realize how it was incompletely prepared.
More generally the movie needed to fuse the 4 leads into the island life better. Non-Swedes probably wont fully understand the quick rendering of the secondary characters. It would help the movie get out of its narcissistic tendencies if we learned what other island residents really thought of the 4, rather than always their navel-gazing.
Now the good stuff .. as botched as it is, this movie does not deserve less than 7 stars. The talent involved in this production are almost in a different league than everyone else in the history of the movie business. The acting is so good, and the underlying concept so honest that Bergman/Nyquist most times can just leave the camera on the actors in a way Hollywood productions can only dream about. And I say this as someone who does not usually like art-house type movies.
The concept is also original, non-misogynistically portraying a woman character as possibly an unconscious murderer, as a liar who loves truth.... some of the sequences are both cinematic and perfectly subtle in the Bergman style ... Nykvist's camera-work is excellent as always ... As other people have said, the exceptional final sequence - which illustrates Von Sydow's characters fate - is both profound and amusing.