20 August 2005 | jotix100
It's in a way fitting, that Ingmar Bergman, one of the cinema's best directors, to choose to depart in this fashion, by expanding on an early work, which was by all accounts fully realized, or so we thought. In "Sarabande" we are reunited with Johan and Marianne, the protagonists of "Scenes from a Marriage". Mr. Bergman seems to have composed a suite in which the Sarabande movement, which is usually introspective and dark, gives the tone to his account in this new work.
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading now.
When we last saw Johan and Marianne they gave the impression their relationship was over. We get to know in "Sarabande" that yes, it really happened, but that a lot of years have passed between the lovers without any actual contact between them. Usually, when intense love affairs end, both partners stay away from one another. It comes as a surprise that Marianne will even try to see Johan after all the intervening years.
When we first meet Johan, he appears to be much older than what he really is. Time has not been kind to him, or so it appears. Marianne, on the other hand is still an interesting woman, who of course, is much younger, but the contrast heightens what appears to be a gulf now between them.
Things are complicated with the introduction of Henrik, Johan's own son, who has moved to a cottage in the property, where he is living with his daughter Karin. Henrik's wife has died, but her picture seems to dominate their lives. In fact, there is something incestuous in the relationship between Henryk and Karin. We watch them in bed, although there's nothing improper about it, but we start to get a different image of what really is going on in the cottage. At one point Karin kisses her father in a way that it confirms the love-hate emotions within Karin's heart. She is trying to break away from this situation in whatever way she can.
In a way we realize that Johan, who seems to hate Henrik, perceives what is going on, but he doesn't have the strength to confront this sad man that is his son. Maryanne, stays away from the feud going on between father and son. It's clear she feels deeply for Karin, a girl that has gained her trust, but there she feels nothing for Henrik.
The acting is first rate, as in most of Mr. Bergman's films. He has the uncanny gift to get great performances from his cast, as it's the case with "Saraband". Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson are perfect as the one time lovers Marianne and Johan. Borje Ahlstedt makes an unappealing and tormented Henrik. The luminous Julia Dufvenius is marvelous as Karin, the young woman, basically at the center of the story.
This is a great coda for Mr. Bergman. He leaves us with an emotional charged film that will be treasured by all his fans.