Friday, May 01, 2020




Rarely depicted in the era, a Swedish Jew: Ruth (Eva Henning), here married to chill Bertil (Birger Malsten). The couple travels on a train back to Sweden from a holiday abroad, and as the cars speed homeward Ruth experiences a succession of flashbacks from her previous life: an abortion of the child belonging to a married lover, following the discovery of their affair by the icy wife. We also recognize ballet as Ruth's special avocation, only shared in images around twenty minutes from the end despite its numerous mentions: a beautiful, kinetic rehearsal where the girls stomp and tap to a fiddle and a drum before finishing showing off their culottes.

A side-plot in cross-cut: Bertil's ex-lover Viola (Birgit Tengroth, who wrote the source short-stories): first she escapes the claws of a vulturing shrink, then the sapphic seduction of dark-christened Valborg, a former ballet colleague of Ruth's who proclaims: "Let's not get autobiographical. It only ends in sentimentality."

A boy presses his palm against the car window from the outside of the train, an unfulfilled wish to escape the poverty of his hometown: exact reverse foreshadowing of similar shots (taken from over the boys' respective shoulders) in Bergman's later masterworks The Silence and Persona. More than the simple symbol of a water bottle, this is the title Thirst [Törst, 1949]: the acute feeling of the absent ability to communicate one's soul, the desire for general fulfillment and contentment, the curious quench.

The filmmaker himself makes a cameo during a quick pan as the camera tracks a porter.


Other writing on Ingmar Bergman at Cinemasparagus:

Kris [Crisis, 1946]

Skepp till India Land [Ship to India, 1947]

Hamnstad [Port of Call, 1948]

Törst [Thirst, 1949]


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