Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Rite

The Ritual of Art, After All

Within the coruscations of Bergman's "art film" trilogy (The Hour of the Wolf, Shame), The Rite [Riten, 1969] is the most 'pop'. It's got a 1 hour 10 minute runtime, it's neatly divided up into a number of chapters or scenes that are discrete and straightforward, and what in a pop song would be a hook is here communicated by an endless array of close-ups on the faces among some of the most beautiful ever filmed. Bergman made this film for Swedish TV before it ran theatrically around the world; it's somehow has never recovered from its 'second-tier' reputation, while being perhaps one of his greatest films. Sven Nykvist shot it, but both the close-ups and some of the lighting (most noticeably in the bar scene) lend itself to the small broadcasting tube-screen of living rooms in 1969. 

Within this aquarium, then, swim three Swiss citizens: Hans (Gunnar Björnstrand), Thea (Ingrid Thulin), and Sebastian (Anders Ek). They are under examination by a doctor-cum-judge (Abrahamson, played by Erik Hell) for their latest stage production which under nominal and unstated pretenses has been deemed transgressive. Theirs is the crime of being artists. Artists' crimes among the troupe have brought them to an interesting place of ménage-à-trois arrangement. 

"One day the stream will choke on islands."

Bergman, who would be horrified to read his film called a descendant of Une femme mariée

The punishment for artists is having been, or is being, misunderstood. We stand beneath stripped branches, the snow falls as deemed by the wind.

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