Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Sigge Fürst, Gunnar Björnstrand, Birgitta Valberg
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
A flawless work (The New Yorker) from Oscar(r) winner* Ingmar Bergman, Shame probes the atrocities of warboth internal and externalas a young couple struggles to survive while the world around them crumbles into chaos. ... more »
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Great film on war
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I should no longer be surprised when critics miss the most obvious things in works of art, because they are human beings, and the vast majority of human beings are lazy by nature. That said, the simplistic notion that Ingmar Bergman's great 1968 film Shame (or Skammen) is merely an anti-war film does a great deal of damage to the reputation of this very complex, and highly nuanced, film. Compared to its more filmically showoffy predecessors, Persona and Hour Of The Wolf, Shame is seemingly a more classic film, in terms of narrative. But, the key word is seemingly, for while it lacks the bravura pop psychologizing of Persona and the gaudy horror film homages of Hour Of The Wolf, it is one of the best films ever made about war- and not as an anti-war film, nor a pro-war film. As such, it has to rank with Wild Strawberries as one of his greatest films, as well as one of his best screenplays, if not the best.
Although ostensibly a more psychologically exterior film than the films that preceded it, it truly says far more realistic things about the human psyche and the will to survive. In it, Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman play Jan and Eva Rosenberg (perhaps a nod at the infamous American spies, whom many European intellectuals felt were innocent), two musicians who used to play for the local philharmonic orchestra before a war broke out, and they retreated to live on a small plot of land on an island, content to working in a greenhouse. The country they live in is unnamed, as is the island they live on, although the film was made on Bergman's small island of Farö, just off the northern end of the Swedish Island of Göttland. It seems that their nation has been at war for some years with an invading country, or perhaps engaged in a civil war with rebels from another province. This is all left deliberately hazy, as this war is meant to symbolize all wars. This is reinforced as the film starts with assorted war quotes on the screen, as the credits roll. These include quotes from Hitler to Vietnam Era American military figures. After early scenes that depict the prosaic nature of their rural life, and then the coming of war, where even old men are conscripted, an aerial attack ravages the Rosenbergs' land, as enemy jets fly overhead, dropping bombs and what seems to be chemical weapons of an Agent Orange like nature. One plane is hit, and a parachutist jumps out and ends up hanging in a tree. Jan, who starts off the film as a sniveling coward, refuses to go and help, so Eva goes alone. Jan joins her and they find the pilot has been shot. It seems he is, indeed, part of the invading, or possibly rebel, force. A bunch of government soldiers soon stop at their home and ask questions about the dead pilot, then advise the couple to leave their home, as the Invaders are near.... there are the misinterpretations of the film on a micro level, such as that of Bergman scholar Marc Gervais, who provides the film commentary on the DVD of the film. Like many other critics, he claims that Jacobi is a Quisling, who has collaborated with the Invaders. But, this is clearly and demonstrably wrong, for Jacobi is with the original Fascist government. As proof, first off, the Invaders are repelled after they invade the Rosenbergs' land and shoot their agitprop interview. We know this because the government that later questions them of the faked interview, and words put into Eva's mouth, see the film as supposed proof of their treason, and Jacobi is clearly working with them, the Fascist Big Brother statists. Secondly, Jacobi is in charge of deciding which of the townsfolk are sent to concentration camps, for collaborating with the Invaders, and the Rosenbergs, again, are among those spared. Thirdly, in his seduction of Eva, Jacobi tells her his son is on leave from the military, and clearly, if he was an Invader, he would not be speaking so happily of his son serving the state. Also, rebel forces are not official armies, and do not grant official leave. Lastly, Filip is clearly with the rebels, or Invaders, of the Organization, and why would he have killed a colleague?
That Gervais and other critics so blatantly and wantonly misinterpret and flat out miss such a key and manifest point of this film brings into question their ability to discern any and all aspects of all of Bergman's films. This is a wonderful and great film, and very high in the Berman canon, but it is disappointing to read how so few critics and viewers have really understand its complex message, instead opting out for the cheap, lazy, and easy claim of its being merely anti-war, and a rather simple film in comparison to its two showier predecessors. And that, in the long run, is the real shame of Shame.
Ted Byrd | 12/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eva and Jan are a married couple of artist-intellectuals who have sought refuge on an island farm in order to escape from civil war on the mainland. Before the breakdown of normal society, they had been violinists in the Philharmonic of the unnamed city in which they had lived.
Though it isn't spelled out, the nature of the political conflict appears to follow the 20th century pattern, where a government dedicated to the interests of the wealthy few is challenged by a socialistic or communistic opposition. There are opposing regular armies as well as partisan rebel militias among the country folk. Jan and Eva's farmstead is in a battle zone which changes hands hourly.
But as far as Jan and Eva are concerned, it doesn't matter who represents what. They are uniformly mistreated no matter who holds power at the moment. Though they claim to be apolitical, they can only be either traitors or allies in the eyes of their captors.
But the exterior violence to which they are subjected is only a magnified reflection of issues they have had in their own relations, with a pattern of conflicts and truces. Jan is a sensitive type who comes close to fitting a description of selfish whiner. Eva is the more decisive one of the two and seems to have more human feelings toward others. There is a strong implication that Jan and Eva, and the type of artist or intellectual, in general, are somewhat to blame for their own predicament. As intellectuals, they should have used their articulation to speak up for peaceful solutions, instead of trying to ignore and escape.
The film shows there can be no escape for anyone when civilized society breaks down. Neither of the regular armies is concerned with the human rights of civilians caught in their paths. Propaganda, coercive threats, and torture are the standard procedures employed by both sides. The partisan civilian fighters are thugs, also, who relish their power to destroy private property and trample on the rights of individuals. Civil authority, as personified by the mayor, is also shown to be corrupted by the chaos, as he opportunistically uses his power to gain base personal ends.
In the midst of this crisis, after having tasted of the treatment of the armies, Jan suddenly finds a determination to survive at any cost. He has changed from a mouse or a chicken into a rat or weasel. Eva still retains her humanity, although she, too, does her share of selling out. The desolation brought about by the armed violence is a mirror to the desolation in the relationship between Eva and Jan. All pretenses and illusions have been stripped away, and it's true nature shows itself in all its unadorned starkness.
The horror of their situation is highlighted in a scene of medieval grimness where Jan and Eva have piled a few belongings into a primitive handcart, and are trudging through the desolated countryside. They look straight ahead, not noticing the ruins of buildings nor the small cluster of people in the distance carrying a coffin toward a church.
This is a more exteriorized film than other Bergman films I have seen, where the emphasis is more on interior psychological states of the characters. It is highly successful in its picture of the horrible nature of war; somewhat more diffident about assigning blame to the artist-intellectual for trying to evade their moral responsibility to society - if, indeed, that was an intended message.
It is definitely a film worth watching, although I did not see it as being outstanding for depth of insight. It's success lies more in it's powerful presentation of the way in which private lives are devastated by the impersonal brutality of war."