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  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is without question one of Bergman's greatest and most rewarding films, and indeed, one of his most subtle. Like his more iconic work - such as The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1971), etc - it presents a rich tapestry of wounded characters and painful memories that are affective on a completely external level. However, what elevates this from a great film to a work of unforgettable genius is in the questions that the film asks - but never answers - and in the window that it offers into the world of Bergman's previous film, the surreal, anti-war parable Shame (1968).

    Like many of his greatest films, A Passion (1969) looks at characters disconnected from the world in which they inhabit and slowly becoming disconnected from themselves within the process. There are the obvious parallels with Shame - which we will come back to - as well as Persona (1966) and Hour of the Wolf (1966). As with those films, A Passion has strong roots in existentialism; creating a barren landscape that comes to represent the internal psychological state of the characters and that particular sense of deep despair and quiet alienation that drives them to take solace in other, equally damaged souls. We also have a series of continual stylistic juxtapositions and attempts by Bergman to disarm and distract us. The most obvious of these is the use of the narration, which on our first exposure, seems to fulfil no real purpose, instead, merely jarring against the natural, almost-documentary like presentation of the film. Added to this, there is a subtle breakdown in reality happening with the notions of fact and fiction, which is again mirrored externally by the way in which Bergman breaks the fourth-wall of the drama to offer us the opinions of his actors on the roles that they are about to perform.

    The technique is reminiscent of Toshio Matsumoto's equally compelling psychological examination, Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), only without the obvious kaleidoscopic influences of pop art, psychedelic rock and the spirit of Jean Luc Godard. It also suggests the confessional element of films like Hour of the Wolf, Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and Rite (1969), only in a way that is far more obtrusive. What these scenes represent for me at this exact point in time is somewhat unknown, although they certainly don't feel out of place; especially within the context of that closing shot and the final revelation.

    The plot here is a maze of pure emotions, with Bergman's cold and clinical narration and ironic deconstruction of the narrative elements turning A Passion into an examination, with characters trapped in metaphorical glass jars and analysed by spectators in order to understand something, not necessarily about the characters, but very much about ourselves. Alongside these deconstructive elements we have characters that seemingly can't be trusted with the information that they have to offer us, with lies, guilt and deceit all swirling 'round us like a whirlpool of blame, disappointment and critical self-examination. The characters are running away from things that there is no real escape from, and the relationship that seems to offer a further window out of their self-imposed exile and malaise ends up leading back again; leaving the characters broken more so than they were at the start of the film. Although it is done subtly by Bergman, the ending of the film is every bit as desolate and apocalyptic as the ending of Shame, or as deconstructive and subversive as the ending of Persona.

    Alongside the creation of a setting that is barren and desolate, and the claustrophobic feeling created by the use of cramped interiors and a limited psychological space, Bergman also creates tension from the enigmatic quality of his characters and the questions that they present. In one of the film's most fascinating sub-plots, we discover that the animals on the island are being slaughtered by an unseen madman; an intelligent and disturbing idea that further suggests the notions of reality breaking down and the nightmarish thoughts and feelings of the characters spilling out and enveloping them. The identity of this violent and cruel individual remains a mystery throughout, with Bergman leaving us to draw our own conclusions; forcing the audience to question not only the actions and intentions of the character observing this horror, but also whether or not this same horror is merely an extension of the character's crumbling world. This is further illustrated by a third-act dream sequence that not only contextualises the whole of A Passion - and, in particular, the character of Anna - but also the director's previous film, Shame.

    Without a doubt, this is raw and extremely powerful film-making; evident from Bergman's uncomplicated use of editing and cinematography. As a result, the film looks and feels very much like an obvious precursor to Lars von Trier's later examination into human fragility, Breaking the Waves (1996), with the filmmaker shooting in muted colours with naturalistic lighting, minimal production design, choppy editing and the use of hand-held cameras. This, combined with the towering performance from Max Von Sydow as the central character Andreas Winkelman, and fine support from Bergman's greatest collaborators, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Erland Josephson, create something truly astounding and truly unforgettable.
  • Bergman is a name one hears so often, and it is so associated with slowness and close-ups that he's intimidating even before one gets to watch him. I picked this movie off the shelf just as I could have picked any other of his movies, and since I haven't seen others, I wouldn't know how to compare this to the rest of his work.

    But I liked it, I really liked it. I didn't find it as 'slow' as much as 'focused,' where even the twitch of an eyebrow or a glance to the left is an action. This minuteness was truly amazing. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Bresson's Journal of a Country Priest. Because of this minuteness, I also found it very cruel and raw. I am particularly thinking of the scenes with the animals (not only the sheep, but the dog as well, and especially the bird).

    And I have to say something about the colors. They were amazing, so warm and so different from the narration, which was in itself detached and indifferent (maybe 'disinterested' is a better word). The light was amazing (like what seemed like an eternal sunset when Eva and Andreas have dinner). If this were a painting I suppose it would be realist or naturalist work, but the way the interviews cut in make it hyper-realist. Other reviewers have criticized this but I found it as adding depth to the characters, because it gave them a new, real, life.

    The English title is misleading though, because it forces the viewer to focus on Anna, whereas the original title doesn't do that. I found myself waiting for things to happen to Anna until I found out that there was no reason for that to happen.

    I am very happy to have seen this, and will definitely not shy away from watching more Bergman movies.
  • This is par for the course with Bergman, though. I have enjoyed all of his films that I've seen, which I admit is not many. This one touched me even more deeply than the others.

    The topics touched on in this film include isolation, truth in relationships, mob mentality, but most importantly isolation from an emotional point of view. The interviews with the actors that are spliced into the film provide insight as well as divisions between sections of the narrative.

    Perhaps what I liked best, however, is the inventive way the script reveals elements of the story. Sometimes a voice-over provides necessary information, and other times the information comes through the characters' conversations -- but never in an annoying "quick exposition" kind of way. For example: Although the affair between Anna and Andreas is the central story, it shows up in an odd place in the film.

    But that is just one of the examples of the unusual construction that makes this film so unique and masterful. I recommend this to anyone who can read subtitles.
  • "A Passion" is one of Ingmar Bergman's underrated classics (inaccurately titled "The Passion of Anna" in the U.S.) and includes one of cinema's great movie endings. "Identity" is one of the primary themes of the film, and the film concludes with Max von Sydow's broken Andreas pacing back and forth in the frame--in an empty, bleak landscape. As the camera pulls back, Bergman (or rather, Nykvist) optically moves in--creating an effect where the image "flattens out" and Andreas literally dissolves into the grain of the film. Brilliant!
  • The Passion of Anna (or The Passion, as it might've been more appropriately titled in Sweden), is Ingmar Bergman with a cast of some of his most recognizable faces- Max Von Sydow (Seventh Seal), Liv Ullman (Persona), Erland Josephsson (Scenes from a Marriage), and Bibi Anderson (Cries and Whispers) - and with a script he's written that shows him not entirely sure, or rather confident, as he usually is as a filmmaker.

    He uses improvisation with his actors in some scenes, experiments with what's in the story and what's outside of the story (it's self-conscious but good self-conscious, similar in tune with Persona's self-consciousness of a film being made outside of what's in the story), and deals away with his classic themes of despair, self-drought, and inner-maelstroms. And, indeed, the theme of deconstruction of the soul is in focus. For a couple of moments some of the self-consciousness could come off as distracting, or at most dangerous boring, but there are counter-weights to balance out whatever troubles Bergman must've had that he's pouring out onto the celluloid.

    While I thought the Passion of Anna wasn't one of Bergman's very best works, it has a story and characters (and with a cast that doesn't do wrong within any given scene) that remain as potent as in his masterpieces. The sub-plot involving the slaying of the animals on the island maybe could've been developed more, but that too brings a thought-provoking backbone to the central characters. At the core, Bergman's presenting the audiences with people who are in a hell-ish situation, with fires and blood being spread along the fields, and that these people feel more or less stuck here.

    The relationship between Andreas (Von Sydow) and Anna (Ullman) is the strongest asset to the film, and for their performances it's nearly worth it enough to rush out to buy the DVD. But beneath that, this is a Bergman film that could grow on a particular viewer over time. Maybe upon a first viewing, at least for what I came away with, the style may be trying to one-up over the substance, and that could be what hinders this from being a magnificent work of art on the level of Persona or The Seventh Seal. However, it's also holds subtleties to the craft, to the compositions by Sven Nykvist, and in the emotions conveyed by the principles of the cast.

    Pretty haunting, evocative, though not entirely perfect, this is definitely an intriguing Bergman entry. Grade: (strong) A-
  • Bergman is the master when it comes to dealing with the intricacies of love and relationships, this film is extraordinary in the way it slowly gives us an insight into these four lost souls as the struggle to make sense of life and try to find their way which isn't easy, the bleak landscape, the desolation, the sparse dialogue, Liv Ullemans face in close up all come together to produce an explosive emotional roller-coaster with an inevitable outcome, the violence of the characters emotions spill over into the environment in the form of an unexplained killer of dumb animals.

    Where are the contemporary films to match such genius, where are the voices to guide us through the fog?
  • It's a movie about lying to oneself, about holding up fictions about ones life and trying to live precisely by those lies. And yet, the movie isn't as against the idea as the quick summation may imply.

    Andreas lives alone on a remote island in Sweden. He's consumed by trying to maintain that isolation, especially at an emotional level. As we learn over the course of the film, he's been scarred deeply by a failed marriage, so he has embraced the idea that he deserves nothing. One day, as he's trying to fix his roof, Anna comes and asks to use his telephone. He eavesdrops on the first part of the conversation, a plea for money, until Anna begins to break down and cry when he silently edges away. She leaves, forgetting her purse, which Andreas promptly rifles through where he finds a letter from Anna's deceased husband that describes the inherent violence in their relationship.

    Anna is staying with Eva and Elis, a married, occasionally unfaithful couple who invite Andreas to dinner. In a apparently improvised scene, the four each have moments to highlight their characters. Eva ends up wide-eyed and desperate for something to believe in, while Elis is a cynical man who believes in literally nothing. Each outlook has something to do with their reactions to a failed pregnancy from years before.

    So, out of the four characters, three are desperate for some kind of higher truth or lie to help mask the problems in their lives, and the fourth, Elis, looks at the world through as clear a glass as possible. But, that clear vision isn't as true as he makes it out to be. He's an architect (who believes in nothing of the buildings he helps design) and amateur photography (who insists that he can't see the truth in anyone else, even as he searches intently through his photography).

    As with most Bergman movies, we have clearly defined personalities that slam up against each other. Andreas and Eva begin a light affair that Andreas casts off as soon as he and Anna begin living together. Eva takes the rejection without emotion. Andreas becomes Elis' employee, typing up notes Elis makes for his architectural work. In the background, there are a string of violent actions taken against animals, including a Dachshund hung by a very precisely tied noose and nearly a dozen sheep slaughtered for no reason. The brutal acts are never explained (though a local hermit is accused, beaten, and then commits suicide because of the suspicion around him), but I think it's eminently obvious that it was Elis. He admits to a fascination in violence, pointing out boxes of photos that show violent acts, but without a solid belief system other than some thin nihilism, he seems like the perfect culprit to decide that torturing animals is a path to finding truth.

    All of this is highly intellectual, an exploration of fantasy overriding reality in different forms, but how does it play as a movie? The answer is very well, of course. Bergman was, among other things, a great filmmaker in general. His relationships with actors allowed to extra very raw performances. His knowledge of what to film, whether extremely tight closeups of his actors' faces or subtle combinations of images to create the illusion of multiple suns in the sky is fantastic. Bergman uses all of his skill to tell this intellectual story intimately and on very human terms.
  • zolaaar19 January 2010
    I think, En passion is indeed not a perfect film, but who likes perfection? In fact, I think, up to now, it belongs in Bergman's top 10 and is a great addition to the issues argued in Vargtimmen, Skammen and Rite. All these characters here are not really authentic, but one: Verner, the old man suspected by the villagers on that island to be the animal abuser, and therefore excruciated. Everyone else, including Andreas, Anna and the couple they are friends with, are people who call for problems, get entrapped by them and catapult themselves into an almost-catastrophe. It's interesting that Verner, writes to Andreas, who seems to be the worst of all, i.e. most un-authentic, a suicide note, saying: "I can't look into anyone's eyes anymore", is, to my understanding, the key to the film - self-made problems contrasted with problems created externally. Given Verner's suicide, driven by slander and torture, Andreas' and Anna's issues in their relationship fade, normally, but then an axe gets involved, a stable burns down and a horse runs off, ablazed, kindled by the real animal tormentor who still is on the loose. An inferno.

    What I like most about this film, though, is its situational context: the island. I can't think of another Bergman film where the environment plays a bigger role than here. All figures are moving in a lost, iced vastness, in defoliated, sparse woods, get stuck in morass and dirt. Animals get brutally tortured and killed, wood gets chopped, wagons bog down in mud. The forlornness and menace of the people in nature is wonderfully captured by Nykvist, mostly in long, high-angle or panoramic shots and is an intriguing contrast to the interior (of the cottages, where the talking, cheating and fighting takes place) - inside there lurks the psychic, outside there's the physical death. That is a great imagery. However, I'm not satisfied with these interview snippets which I think is a nice idea (such as Bergman's verbal directions in the off in Vargtimmen), but it's executed quite poorly.
  • Another film from Ingmar Bergman focusing on existential angst, and which has some pretty bleak commentary on life. It's one that you probably have to watch as symbolically as literally, and while it's dark, I found the balance between the two to be good, and the film to be thought-provoking. The isolation of the island that the four main characters live on, with all of its cruelty and harsh conditions, resembles the isolation of the human condition, and we see four unique responses to it, all of them troubling. Amidst their personal turmoil, we also see scenes of animal slaughter taking place at the hands of some psychopath loose on the island, and hear about the torture of a guy falsely accused of the crime at the hands of a mob. Fun stuff, eh? Hey, pass the popcorn!

    In an excellent dinner party scene early on, with the camera focused in turn on each one of the main characters for an interval, we get an insight into their varying personalities, which I saw as being marked by idealism, insecurity, isolation, and indifference:

    • Idealism - Anna (Liv Ullmann). This character has responded to her husband and child's absence by wrapping the story of her marriage up in a rosy vision, but her frequent mention of honest communication and love in marriage are lies, which we know because of a letter that's been discovered. She's also called out by Adreas for her mourning of a friend's death, which he says is "nothing but theatrics." Is she being hypocritical or he being cruel, or both? Perhaps the closest thing we see to reality with her is in a dream sequence, which has a brilliant long shot from Sven Nykvist and the narration "I was alone on the road. I felt a terrible longing for companionship, for an embrace, for rest. And at the same time, I knew this was gone forever."


    • Insecurity - Eva (Bibi Andersson). Even though she's well capable of expressing herself, it was telling to me that when she's asked if she believes in God, she turns briefly to her husband and asks "Do I believe in God, Elis?" Her best lines come later, when she's with Andreas and says "It's difficult when you realize one day you're completely meaningless. That nobody needs you, even though all you want to do is give."


    • Isolation - Andreas (Max von Sydow). His character is the one that has the clearest signs of angst. He is so broken and finds it so difficult to get along with people, let alone be in in a relationship, that he prefers lonely solitude. He has a long, despairing speech towards the end which I quote below, and like Ingrid Thulin's character in 'The Silence' (1963), he fears death and is haunted by "ghosts and memories." Lest we feel bad for him, though, in one scary moment he comes at Anna with an axe, and then beats her. He is clearly capable of the great violence we're aware of others committing in the film, and as he seems to represent an "Everyman" of sorts, there is certainly a comment in that.


    • Indifference - Elis (Erland Josephson). To me, while he has a smaller role, he's the most disturbing of all. We first glimpse his cynicism when he says of a building he's architecting, "It is a mausoleum representing the total futility in which our kind of people live." He collects and carefully catalogs photographs of people in various emotional states, but he is cold and emotionally distant himself. As the actor explains when Bergman breaks the fourth wall and shows an interview clip with him (as he does with the others), "I think Elis Vergerus finds it hypocritical to be horrified by the madness of humans and that it's emotional carelessness to cry out for decency and justice. He's decided that human suffering won't keep him up at night. He feels he's completely indifferent in both his own and others' eyes. And those are the conditions he lives by. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to function." It's the nihilism and uncaring cruelty in that line, "human suffering won't keep him up at night" that is so chilling to me.


    The real world is still out there beyond this little island, albeit visible only through grainy TV reception, and it's equally horrifying. Just as in 'The Silence', what we see is a glimpse of warfare - though here it's one of the most difficult to watch scenes from the Vietnam War, that of a South Vietnamese soldier matter-of-factly shooting a Viet Cong POW in the head. We don't actually see the bullet fired in the film, but viewers at the time would have been well familiar with the horror of this imagery.

    All of these characters are seeking refuge from the difficulty of life, and by wrapping themselves up in one coping mechanism or another, they're lying to themselves or to those around them. I see a spectrum of awareness to life's horrors, ranging from Anna (unware and naïvely delusional), to Eva (somewhat aware), to Andreas (aware and depressed), to Elis (aware and not giving a crap). Is this how we progress in our views over the course of our lives?

    With the possible exception of Eva who is the most sympathetic, I don't think I'd want the world populated with characters of these four types, but a little voice within me asked "but is it?" as I thought of that. Bergman at 51 seems to think so. He underlines this further by giving Andrea's character an aspect of repetition, both in having the same name as Anna's old husband, as well as in the last line from the narrator, seen as von Sydow paces back and forth as if trapped in an existential box: "This time he was called Andreas Winkelman." Brutally, brutally stark.

    Here's the long quote, from Andreas (Max von Sydow): "It's terrible not being fortunate. Everybody thinks they have the right to decide over you. Their benevolent contempt. A momentary desire to trample something living. I'm dead, Anna. No, no, I'm not dead. That would be too melodramatic. I'm not dead at all. But I live without self-respect. I know that sounds silly - pretentious - since almost all people are forced to live without self-worth. Humiliated to the core, stifled and spat upon. They just live. They know nothing more. They know no alternative. Even if they did, they would never reach for it. You understand?

    Can you be sick from humiliation? Is it a disease we're all infected by and we have to live with? We talk so much about freedom, Anna. Isn't freedom a terrible poison for the humiliated... or is the word 'freedom' only a drug the humiliated use in order to endure. I can't live with this. I've given up. Sometimes it's unbearable. The days drag by. I feel like I'm choking on the food I swallow, the crap I get rid of, the words I say. The light - the daylight which comes every morning and yells at me to get up. Or the sleep which always brings dreams, chasing me back and forth. Or just the darkness rattling with ghosts and memories. Has is ever occurred to you, Anna, that the worse off people are, the less they complain? Eventually they're silent... even though they're living creatures with nerves, eyes, and hands. Massive armies of both victims and executioners. The light which rises and sinks heavily. The cold approaches. Darkness. The heat. The smell. And everyone is silent. We can never leave this place. I don't believe in escape. It's too late. Everything's too late."
  • Andreas Winkelman (Max von Sydow) is a recluse living in an isolated farmhouse. He meets Anna Fromm (Liv Ullmann) who is mourning her losses. Eva (Bibi Andersson) and Elis Vergerus (Erland Josephson) are a neighboring couple. Someone is torturing animals. First, a puppy is left hanging and then sheep are senselessly slaughtered. There are inserted scenes of actors doing behind-the-scenes interviews to discuss their roles.

    For Ingmar Bergman acolytes, this is a secondary work. Bergman is not really my thing. I see he's looking at humanity. In this one, it is violence and distress. These are perfect natural performances. They don't necessarily excite me although the animal cruelty jolts me with the shock of it. This is not for everyone. For cinephiles or more specifically Bergman fans, this is a box that needs to be checked.
  • Ingmar Bergman's talent and importance are not in question, but now that we can look back on his career as a whole, it's clear that not all his films are equally inspired.

    THE PASSION OF ANNA is so beautifully acted and photographed, it almost disguises the emptiness at the center. Not only the characters, but the filmmaker himself seems tired, discouraged, uncertain of what he wants to say.

    It's hard to be bored watching such fine actors work, but the story they're acting doesn't add up to much. Lacking inspiration, Bergman falls back on his customary verbosity and adds morbid touches, such as the unpleasant scenes of animal cruelty here, or Andreas and Anna watching on television a filmed execution in Viet Nam or somewhere, that seem to have no purpose other than arousing revulsion in the viewer.

    Bergman's concentration on the cruel and the depressing almost to the exclusion of every other aspect of life must have seemed fresh and daring in the 1960s and 1970s, but now he can seem almost adolescent in his obsession with the morbid. Samuel Beckett's plays, chic during the same era, have not dated well either. There's a lot more to life, and to art, than cruelty, suffering, and death, but you'd never know it from Beckett or from Bergman films such as this one.

    In an interview excerpted in the special features, Bergman says art must be useful, otherwise "we can all go to hell". It's very hard to say what the use of a film like this might be, except to make audiences weary and depressed.

    Dark works which illuminate the human spirit can be valuable (O'Neill's incredibly depressing, but richly rewarding LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT is an example) but sometimes Bergman seems to have had a contract to make a film and not a lot to say. Still, everyone was being paid, the distributor required a film to be made and delivered, and it was.

    One can feel Bergman using a variety of techniques in this film to find meaning in his story -- voice-over narration, improvisation, breaking the fourth wall to interview the actors about their roles -- but one senses he never really does. The film is obviously the work of a highly intelligent and talented writer/filmmaker, but it never really pays off. Viewing it is sometimes painful, sometimes boring, but rarely illuminating.

    I feel the same way about CRIES AND WHISPERS, an unpleasant and, to my mind, pointless film rated very highly by others. Both CRIES and ANNA are cruel films, cold at the center. Bergman's lack of compassion seemed terribly modern, honest, and "truthful" in 1969, but now it looks more and more like a deficiency in the filmmaker's own sensibility.
  • Ingmar Bergman's 'The Passion Of Anna', seemed a masterpiece when I first saw it, in 1969, in an art house cinema in London, on my own. That intense experience overwhelmed me, and has remained in my head, although I have never seen it again until today. It is still powerful. The underlying menace, metaphorically epitomised by animal abuses outside, in grim weather, is reflected by the inside scenes. Andreas, a sophisticated 'outsider' - Max Von Sydow, troubled by divorce, no money and with a ravaged sense of failure and inadequacy - links up with a highly successful architect and his wife. The opening shot of Andreas on a rooftop, ineffectually repairing some ridge tiles, is a portent of his impracticality. The interiors are intimately photographed, in dramatic contrast to the island shots, where Nykvist gives us a broader view. There is a trapped sense of an intellectual but isolated group who can cope no better with life than the people who live permanently on the island. Bibi Andersson and Erland Josephson have their own conflicts and inner turmoils; Erland plays Elis the architect, and reveals the classic dilemma of the successful man. He has converted a windmill just to store his photographs. Hundreds of white boxes on shelves classified as emotions, catastrophes, violence; they have no real purpose, he says. He cannot allow his knowledge of human frailties to cloud his mind so he externalises his concerns, storing them safely away. Andreas can only be a solitary part of their world, and he tries to make something happen with Liv Ullman, but that ends in bitterness. The players circle around each other, all questing for something. The arty inserts, where interviews with the actors intrude on the narrative, either irritates or helps; at the time it seemed so innovative but I am now not so convinced it is a good idea. The film is still modern though. In the late 60s it seemed utterly new. The final scene is moving and unnerving. Andreas is abandoned, alone again, pacing up and down, going over the same ground, locked in a doomed circularity. We all have these people in us.
  • tobiasn12 June 2002
    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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the third Bergman film I've seen, and easily my least favorite of the three (the others being THE HOUR OF THE WOLF, and the legendary THE SEVENTH SEAL). While I didn't really *like* either of those two, I still appreciated them for their visual style, especially THE HOUR OF THE WOLF. However, I just downright hated this one. The only reason I watched it is because I wanted to see more Bergman films (since his reputation is just astounding). The characters are so bland, they had to include scenes where the actors explain to you why you should care about them. The characters are so bland that I was completely indifferent to the outcomes of spousal abuse and attempted murder. It comes as no surprise that this film is also insanely boring, seeing as it was directed by Ingmar Bergman. Almost nothing worth watching happens until about 1 hour and 30 minutes in. Now is a good time to mention that the movie is about 1 hour and 40 minutes long. Nearly everything memorable before that point is animal abuse. For example, a puppy being hanged 15 minutes in. Of course Max's "character" saves the dog, and gives him to some other "character" later, and it is never mentioned again. So, why was the dog introduced? Oh, to show that there was an animal slaughterer on the loose. Why is that important? Because a friend of Max's kills himself because he is accused of being the killer. But why do we care about that? It barely even had an effect on Max. Plus, we barely even knew the friend so it didn't really impact us as an audience. And how was it determined that he was the animal killer? Who was it that beat up the friend resulting in his suicide? Did they ever find out who the real killer was? Why was he killing the animals? Should we even care? What happened to the puppy? What happened with the character who got the puppy? What happened with that character's husband? What was up with the pictures? Who's Andreas? Isn't Max Andreas? Why did Max have the same name as Anna's ex-husband? Are the two Andreases the same person? Wouldn't that mean that the film takes place in both the past and present tense? Am I over-thinking it? Isn't the point to think about it? Am I thinking about the wrong thing? Why aren't I thinking of the right thing? Oh yeah, it's because this is a bad film. This film did nothing but anger me. Scenes that came out of nowhere and went nowhere, characters I couldn't care less about, emotionless acting in emotional situations, a complete lack of events, and a less-than-amazing style. This film is, quite frankly, a joke.
  • The whole purpose of this film is character studies of four neurotic adults and their dysfunctional relationships. The late 1960s produced tons of this type #!%!. Whose afraid of Virginia Wolfe etc etc etc... All these movies do is make me realize how innocent and normal I am after all. They are all praised to high heaven by every brainless sycophant out there.

    The gist of the story is an unhappy affair that develops between a self delusional woman Anna (Liv Ullman)--who may have killed her husband by driving a car off the road-- and a loner Andreas (Von Sylow) who has been in prison for writing bad checks. There are two other main characters an architect and his wife who spin their neuroses right along side those of the two main protagonists. A subplot involves someone killing maiming and torturing animals--great fun.

    It gets one extra star for Von Sylow's wonderfully expressive eyes.

    I watched this thing through...my main thoughts at the end were who killed and tortured the animals? Was it Andreas? or Anna?? neither?? Were animals actually sacrificed for this stupid movie?

    Regret watching this movie Bergman or not... it leaves me with absolutely nothing except the memory of the killed animals and some messed up adults.

    If you are masochistic and want to mentally slice and dice and analyze neurotic unappealing people and watch scenes of mutilated animals be my guest.

    But if you want to be entertained and uplifted avoid this like the plague.
  • Bergman really was at the top of his game by the late 1960's and this masterful piece is one of his (many) great works.

    He has some of his best actors at his disposal: Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow. They are all superb in this film.

    Key themes include "living a lie", the many ways in which love can manifest itself, man's inhumanity to man and our ability to be cruel to animals as well as each other. People who get especially upset at images of cruelty to animals might best keep away from this movie, although those scenes are done very sensitively.

    The film is interspersed with post modernist vignettes by the main actors explaining how they feel about their characters. While I found those scenes fascinating, they did interrupt the flow a little and I found myself needing some time after each interruption to rejoin the lost and lonely world on that remote island.

    But the criticisms are minor. The heaps of praise are my main comments on this film. I was transfixed by it. As usual with Bergman, action junkies should stay away, but lovers of great and thoughtful drama should get a lot of pleasure from this great film.
  • The first thing you notice is the look of the picture. Bergman chose to film "The Passion of Anna" in colour and again his DoP was Sven Nykvist. There's nothing as innovative here as in, say, "Cries and Whispers" but the use of colour alleviates the bleakness, both of the landscape and of the emotions on display, (this is certainly not one of Bergman's 'lighter' films). Then there's the style; early in the picture Bergman inserts a cutaway to actor Max Von Sydow talking about his character and later, other actors follow suit. It's only a film, you see.

    The setting is yet another island in winter and no-one is happy, particularly Von Sydow's Andreas, living alone with his books and getting drunk until he meets Anna, (Liv Ullmann), who moves in with him. He's superb, of course, but then so is everyone and yet we never feel any emotional engagement with any of the characters. Do we need these explanations by the actors? Personally I found these Brechtian devices nothing more than a distraction in a film singularly lacking in passion of any kind, (a subplot involving the killing of animals is more interesting than the relationships on show). For some reason I imagine this is just the kind of Bergman film Woody Allen would worship.
  • Disappointing after Shame, which was near-perfect. Clearly an experiment to break the third wall in a Bergman film, just not at all something I wanted from a Bergman film. I like to be completely absorbed in the reality of the situation. An improvised dinner-party scene where the actors bandy about miscellaneous pretentious ideas, mockumentary moments where "Liv Ullman" and "Max von Sydow" are interviewed about the characters just didn't work for me. I had to turn it off. Will try again at a later date maybe, but I've only just started finding Bergman films I love, this was not a good choice...

    There were scenes I liked, but then I'd get dragged out of the spell by the mockumentary scenes, very strange.

    4/10
  • A writer lives on a remote island and occasionally shouts in the woods when he gets drunk. Oh, and he likes to talk to the camera, but as himself – Max von Sydow. He is friendly with an architect – with whose wife he, naturally, has sex. And let's not forget Ullmann, the widow. He likes her, too, and they hook up – much to his regret. She turns out to be even more mentally unstable than himself. In-between all the dull, pretentious dialog we have a couple of animals getting tortured and slaughtered.

    Seriously now, if you like Bergman's static, depressive, and overly self-indulgent movies, watch this one, too, and have a ball. And afterward, you can take that whole bottle of sleeping pills you hide from your spouse/parents/whomever, or you can just lock the door of your bathroom and have a nice lie down in the bath-tub while you slit your wrists. I hear hanging is pretty good, too! I have seen 7 or 8 Bergman films so far, and I have yet to come across one that can even fulfill the criteria needed for being average. They are mediocre, at best. I know, I know… Those of you who love Bergman probably think that I don't possess the necessary intellect to comprehend his films. I mean, they are all, after all, simply BRILLIANT. So DEEP. So very DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND… Believe me, there is nothing difficult in these films, and I am referring in particular to his relationship films of the "Passion of Anne" kind (or "Cries & Whispers" and "Autumn Sonata", for example). They are rather simple, in fact. Sure, they may be tough to understand by your average Steven Segall fan, but the fact that Bergman's films aren't idiotic doesn't mean they're good. They do not entertain. Heavy drama? Fine. But let's have grander themes than just relationships between a couple of depressed, troubled Swedes. All that these bergmannesque Scandinavian characters need is a nice trip to Hawaii - you know, somewhere warm and sunny – and they wouldn't be on the verge of suicide so much. I NEED SOMETHING GRANDER THAN WHO IS DEPPRESSED AND WHY AND WHAT THE REAL ROOTS ARE TO THEIR ANXIETY, SELF-LOATHING, and other wonderful traits. You want deep? Check out "Possible Worlds", "2001", "Picnic At Hanging Rock", "Solaris" (the 1973 film, not the shoddy Soderbergh version), or "Stalker". Don't bore me with "why does so and so not love his missus any more and why her childhood has scarred her and hence still influences the course of their marriage" type of trite stuff. YAWN. Bergman dramas are like daily TV soapers but with better acting and dialog.

    Sweden's best exports remain ABBA,their tennis players, and "Muppet Show's" Swedish Chef. I don't think that Bergman's contribution amounts to much – unless you'd take seriously what a plethora of pretentious film critics say about him.

    Did I mention that Swedish is a beautiful, melodious language that is like a mermaid's song to my ears?

    If you are unhappy with with this movie, which you must be, just google "Vjetropev Bergman Spoofs" and this will lead you to my video clips with the vastly improved version of the film. Have fun.
  • It looks like the production did not go entirely well. Maybe the footage was just not good enough to be put on the screen or there was not enough money to complete the shoot. Some parts of the story are missing. These holes are somewhat saved by "making of" interviews with the leads cut into the movie, breaking up the plot deliberately, creating a Bert Brecht theater touch. Additional saves with voice overs. Some characters are developed, others are not. Uneven editing. Some scenes almost have a student film maker feel. Other parts have a great sense of rhythm. Unlike most Bergman films, it has an interesting ending, with Sydow disappearing in the material of the film. I can see how Bergman got depressed on the releasing of his films, especially this one. Still an ancouraging watch if you are a film student. If Bergman could do this, you might be able to do better.
  • Morten_519 July 2019
    The 30th feature film directed by Bergman, yet another one shot on the island of Fårö and centering on Ullmann and von Sydow (who are both great) - and it works again. As usual, Nykvist's cinematography is excellent.
  • rotildao7 April 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is Bergman reinventing himself, experiencing new ways to show his feelings, as he would say himself. The letter says it all! Psychological violent thoughts and such and such... Bergman always reminds us of what is going on and it's his very way he uses to illustrate and touch new and old subjects he showed previously in his work. I think this one should not be a first Bergman experience for anyone; however, if by accident it is, it will be a good one and at least it will boost curiosity. Hopefully one will realize how powerful Bergman's work is. The mystery will be solved. Don't give up on the first Bergman film, never! Also you'll find out that Liv Ullman is one of the greatest actresses of all times, and Bergman, again, if this is your first, have a few more and you'll find out what he is indeed!
  • A quite typical Ingmar Bergman film, it is as powerfully acted and as well shot as one would expect, however it otherwise fails to rise above the ordinary. The film has a unique, unusual structure in which the story is broken up by interviews with the performers in which they discuss the characters that they are playing. While a rather interesting concept in itself, it does not really work. It is clumsy way of getting across the emotions of the characters that are not obvious on screen, and it does jar the flow of the story. The story itself is rather slim in content too, and over one and a half hours in length is a stretch. It is overly talkative, and overall not one of Bergman's best films, but Bergman still manages to end his film on a potent note, plus the Sven Nykvist cinematography as well as the quality of the acting keep it worth watching.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ingmar Bergman's 1969 film A Passion (En Passion, misnomered in America as The Passion Of Anna) is a great film, and out of the series of late 1960s films (also including Persona, Hour Of The Wolf, and Shame) dealing with relationships and the self, it may be the best. It stars many of the Bergman retinue of actors: Max Von Sydow as Andreas Winkelman, Liv Ullman as Anna Fromm, Bibi Andersson as Eva Vergerus, and Erland Josephson as Elis Vergerus.

    It follows Andreas, an ex-convict, as he recovers from his wife's abandonment, on a small farm on a Swedish island- ostensibly Bergman's own Farö, where it was filmed. One day, Anna, a crippled widow, comes to his home and Andreas listens in on the phone call she needs to make. She then accidentally (or not?) leaves her purse at his house, and he reads a letter of her rocky marriage, as he digs through her purse to find her address, and learns of her dead husband's fears for her sanity. When he returns the purse, that night, he meets the Vergeruses, the couple whom Anna lives with. He is later invited over to dinner, and the foursome discuss life and philosophy…..Throughout the film, a number of other subtexts emerge, such as Bergman again breaking the fictive spell of the film by having his four main actors portray themselves talking about their characters. Another side story involves the abuse, torture, and killing of local animals. A local hermit, with a history of mental instability, is suspected. Andreas knows the man, Johan Andersson (Erik Hell), and it's clear he is not the culprit, because he is an old lumbering man, and early in the film the audience glimpsed a young man speedily running away from a scene where he is hanging the puppy that Andreas saves. Nonetheless, as sheep, and other animals, are killed, a band of young vigilante islanders have apparently beaten and tortured the old man to confess. This act of cruelty drives him to suicide, and he leaves a note of thanks for Andreas, for all his kindnesses, that the police bring to him….

    This film's ending is famous, but has been misinterpreted in many ways. First, Bergman has admitted in print that he did not zoom in to get the graininess of the final images, but merely blew up the shot. As for what it means? Many take it simply as the psychological dissolution of Andreas Winkeleman, which is the final in a series of character dissolutions in this series of late 1960s films….But that's too melodramatic a claim.….The ending leaves a visceral impact, both for its visuals and its often overlooked critical revelation….The film succeeds magnificently, in an understated way that many of Bergman's more famous films do not. It's that good.
  • Mental unrest visualized. An isolated man meets a complicated lady mourning the death of her husband. Liv Ullmann was outstanding in her role of Anna as usual. The character depiction was quite complex and the the character of Anna somehow matches the complexity of Elizabeth Volger in Persona. The intimacy of Anna, at grieving character with her delusion of once being in a perfect relationship & Andreas, an emotionally unsure character is really something to experience. Ingmar Bergman's tenderness towards the making of the film is visible very often throughout.
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