A woman visits her ex-husband after thirty years, as he, his son and granddaughter continue to mourn the loss of the son's wife who died two years earlier. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: R — Release Date: 2-MAY-2006 — M... more »edia Type: DVD« less
Catherine L. (ritikitib) from BOSTON, MA Reviewed on 5/22/2012...
I'm not much good at writing reviews. This is an unusual and complex film. The reviewers on Amazon do this film justice. Worth requesting if you enjoy Bergman films.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 08/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Saraband" is the name of a movement in a classical piece of music by Bach. It is also the name of a dance and just like a piece of music Ingmar Bergman weaves his story to a certain rhythm of emotions.
"Saraband" touched me on a deeply personal level. It is the greatest movie going experience of my life. Now I know what many of you are thinking. How dare you! What about the "Lord of the Ring" movies, the "Harry Potter" series, the "Star Wars" movies and of course "Titanic". How on earth could I possible justify my reaction to dare say a much smaller film, a film that will go unseen by millions, yet alone, a Swedish film, is the greatest movie going experience of my life. Well you see I never really got caught up in the "Lord of the Ring" movies. I enjoyed them but I never read the books, nor have I ever read the "Harry Potter" books and I don't intend to ever read them, I simply don't have any interest. But what makes "Saraband", for me, the ultimate experience is the fact it was the first film I ever saw by Ingmar Bergman in a theatre. It was such an experience to be able to go out and watch a movie by my favorite director on the big screen. That is my explanation.
Bergman originally released this film two years ago on Swedish television just as he did "Fanny and Alexander" back in 1983. "Saraband" though is quite a cinematic event for film lovers. It is the first film Bergman has directed since 1984's "After the Rehearsal" to be released in theatres. Is that not cause for a celebration or what?
The film is a sequel to Bergman's 1974 masterpiece "Scenes From A Marriage". It is divided into 10 chapters and tells the story of Marianna (Liv Ullman) meeting Johan (Erland Josephson) 30 years after "Marriage". It is explained that Marianna simply had a sudden urge to visit him. Could it be as she grows older she wonders about what her life could have been like? Maybe. So the two meet as it turns out to be one of the most joyous moments in the film.
At this point it should be pointed out one doesn't have to watch "Scenes From A Marriage" to appreciate or understand this movie. But I must admit it does help. If only because to watch these characters on-screen is like visiting old friends. When we first see them meet our minds flood with images. We recall the first film and the impression it left on us. If you haven't seen that movie "Saraband" may have a harder time putting you under its spell.
As the film goes on we find out Johan's son, Henrik (Borje Ahlstedt) and his daughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius) are staying in his guest house. We also find out Johan and Henrik are not really on the best of terms. At most it is polite conversation whenever they are in the same room. Which is something they both try to avoid happening.
Henrik plays cello and has been teaching his daughter, who has a great gift for the instrument we are told. But their relationship is a strange one. After Karin's mother died two years ago she feels she can not leave her father to go and study because it would shatter him. It is feared he might kill himself. But Henrik is not letting his daughter live her own life. The two get into an agrument which turns violent and suddenly I was thinking about the best friends and their marriage in "Scenes".
"Saraband" begins to tell the story of love, the past, and reconciliation between former husband and wife, father and daughter and father and son.
I wrote a review a long time ago for "Scenes From A Marriage" in it I said the movie has an intensity that few films have matched. Bergman just seems to throw these characters in our face as we watch them explode. I also felt it was the greatest film I had seen on the subject of love and marriage. "Saraband" is the only film that comes closet to matching that film's power.
I should though mention, in order to be fair and balanced, that "Saraband" is not a better film than "Marriage" I seriously doubt many fans will think it is either. That is not to say "Saraband" is not a good film. Or a nice companion piece to "Scenes". Or a film without beautiful dialogue, strong performances, and powerful directing. It is a touching absorbing film but it just didn't seem to hit me as hard as "Scenes" did.
Some of my favorite scenes in the film include a conversation between Henrik and Karin about an agrument Henrik and his wife had. Another powerful scene deals with Johan and Henrik. Here we can see what kind of relationship this father and son have. We can actually fill the hate and disgust between them. And finally a scene with Marianna and Karin, as Marianna describes Johan to Karin is quite moving. In fact all of the moments in this film are wonderfully expressed by this cast and Bergman's ear for dialogue.
Are their faults with the film? Yes. The relationship between Henrik and Karin seems very strange and deserved an explanation but is given none. Also information about Karin's future is never given and we are left with that same murkiness with Johan's future. Though all in all "Saraband" is a masterpiece that is dominated by strong performances. It's emotions are real and we believe what we are seeing. I can not recommend this film strongly enough.
Bottom-line: The greatest movie going experience of my life. Ingmar Bergman's sequel to "Scenes From A Marriage" may not be as powerful as that movie, but so few films are. "Saraband" though exceeds as its own film. It feels complete as is. It has powerful acting, strong directing, and some truly beautiful speeches all set to a wonderful score by Bach."
Bergman's hypnotic homage to his late wife
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 08/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Saraband" reintroduces Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson as Marianne and Johan - the characters they played in Ingmar Bergman's classic 1973 release "Scenes from a Marriage." If you've not seen that, no matter. Ullman's Marianne sets the scene for you at the opening of the film and tells you everything you need to know in a five-minute prologue. The movie then consists of 10 intense dialogues between each of the four main characters. [It's not as staged as it sounds.] Then, there's a headscratching, out-of-the-clear-blue epilogue that I'm sure has some great, deep meaning, but was lost on me.
One thing that bothered me is that the math (or the translation?) in the movie doesn't work. Marianne and Johan work out that they've not seen each other in 32 years. Subsequently, Marianne tells Johan she is now 62, meaning they last saw each other when she was 30. Marianne later tells Johan's granddaughter (through a previous marriage) that she was married to Johan for 16 years, then they broke up, then got together again briefly before splitting for good. That puts Marianne at...under 14 when they married. Bergman seems to have lost the plot there a bit.
I have to admit that how I felt about 'Saraband' was deeply influenced after my viewing when I read the following blurb on IMDB: "The film is very autobiographical. The character of Anna (and the picture of her) is actually Ingrid Von Rosen, Ingmar Bergman's wife, who died of cancer, and was his greatest love."
The camera lingers and lingers and...lingers at von Rosen's beguiling photo. It's almost hypnotic and - at the same time - a bit spooky, like you're staring at a ghost that inhabits the entire movie. Indeed, three of the four characters are obsessed with Anna and - two years on - can't come to grips with her passing. With this knowledge, you'll see the movie in a different light and understand the deeply personal nature of it.
Also worth noting: Julia Dufvenius - who plays gifted yound cellist Karin - is going to be a huge star. What a find."
G. Bestick | Dobbs Ferry, NY USA | 05/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bergman first introduced us to Johan and Marianne in his 1974 masterpiece Scenes from a Marriage, one of the cinema's most exacting dissections of our all-too-human failure to connect. Bergman and the splendid Scandanavian actors Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann took us through Johan and Marianne's marriage, divorce, and post-divorce reconciliation. In the end, they live apart, but still make room for the bond between them.
Three decades later, Bergman, Josephson and Ullmann have given us Saraband, a late-life gift. Marianne decides that even though she hasn't seen Johan since the 1970s, it's time to make contact again. Johan has inherited money from an aunt, and lives in splendid isolation overlooking a lake. She literally wakes him with a kiss, but soon enough Marianne's fantasy of an idyllic reunion evaporates as she gets drawn deeper into the power struggles in Johan's family.
Henrik, Johan's son, is staying in a nearby cottage with his daughter Karin. Both of them still mourn Anna, Henrik's wife and Karin's mother, who died two years before. Henrik, a music teacher, is preparing Karin, an accomplished cellist, for her conservatory entrance exams. The elderly Johan remains cold-hearted but charismatic (not unlike Bergman's own father) and one of the questions the movie explores is why people are so attracted to him. Henrik wants his father's affection and acceptance, even though Johan refuses to give it, ostensibly due to some slight by Henrik when he was 19 years old. In a painful scene, Henrik goes to Johan to ask for money to help Karin, and in his 61 year old face, we see the bewilderment of the boy who never came to grips with his self-absorbed father.
For Karin, her grandfather is a counterweight to the suffocating embrace of her father. Karin struggles to figure out what she owes Henrik, what she owes to the memory of her mother, and what she owes to herself. She lets Marianne see some, but not all, of the turmoil she's going through. For Marianne, her attraction to Johan remains as difficult to pin down as it was when she was married to him. She's always wanted something from him, but since she can't define what it is, she'll probably never get it.
The struggles between the characters get played out over ten riveting scenes bookended by Marianne's opening and closing monologues. Karin makes her choices. Henrik reacts. Marianne throws herself once more against Johan's emotional aloofness. As he's done throughout his brilliant career, Bergman brings it alive through artful dialog, perfect dramatic timing, and riveting cinematic composition. The characters are not always likable, but they are never less than engrossing.
The Criterion's DVD includes a mini-documentary of Bergman making Saraband. We watch the 87 year old director slump to the floor to illustrate some blocking, kid around with the crew, poke and prod his actors into position. It's a treat to watch him work. One wonders if any other director will ever elicit such an emotionally powerful performance from Julia Dufvenius, the fine young actress who plays Karin. One also wonders why Bergman put himself through the grueling labor of making another film after he'd announced he was through.
Bergman spent his entire career obsessed by the difficulties of human connection. Apparently he wants to say one last thing about it, which seems to be this: after all the tears and shouting, all the posturing and cruelty, all the reaching out and pulling back, this is what remains: marriages of true minds (the photo of Anna used in the film is a picture of Bergman's great love, his deceased wife Ingrid); the fraught ties of fathers and sons; memories of old loves; what you give and get from children; and the devolution of the flesh. None of it is easy, the master tells us, but all of it is necessary. In the end, it's all you have.
What's truly sad is that Bergman, sixty years after embarking on his cinematic journey, claims that he's done. He did for film what Shakespeare did for theater, took it to new levels by expanding the language used to describe the glories and follies of human striving. He will certainly be missed and he can't be replaced.
But don't see Saraband for nostalgic reasons. It's a moving, insightful film that deserves a place in the director's canon. Saraband stands on its own, but it's a deeper experience if you watch Scenes from a Marriage first. "
"It's an axiety greater than me..."
Michael | Canada | 08/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The most harrowing aspect of senility is perhaps loneliness and a sense of impotence, two sentiments that resonate throughout Ingmar Bergman's latest film "Saraband".
While sorting out old photos and reminiscing about her life, Marianne (Liv Ullman) felt the sudden urge to reconnect with her ex-husband Johan (Erland Josephson) whom she hadn't spoken in thirty years. Soon after arriving at Johan's cottage in a remote countryside, Marianne found herself in the middle of a bitter struggle between Johan and his son, Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt), a former conductor, over the future of Henrik's daughter, Karin (Julia Dufvenius), a budding cellist.
Henrik has been devastated by the recent passing of his late wife, Anna, and his desperate attempt to keep the last remaining love of his life, Karin, on his side not only irritated Johan but also tormented Karin, who was well aware her father's true intention of giving her cello lessons. A surprise finding by Karin would eventually culminate in the climax of the film, a candid portrayal of how far people would go to try to hang on.
In our own way, we all want to know that we matter and that our existence has amounted to something meaningful. This desire is often driven and intensified by the awareness of our mortality. Marianne and Johan were also forced to face up to theirs in the film where in one scene Johan awoke Marianne during the wee hour of the night and confided to her that he felt "an anxiety that's greater than me" and that he couldn't stand to bear it. It was the night where they first slept in the same bed ever since they were separated.
Johan has never looked so at ease lying there besides Marianne. "
Bergman and the Joys of his Film Concerts
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For many years the films of Ingmar Bergman have haunted us, films that dare to enter territories untouched by others, peopled by actors of consummate skill, extended monologues both spoken and silent, and secret doors into the souls of some of the most fascinating characters created for the screen. SARABAND is no exception: this theme and variations is written and performed and directed to perfection. It leaves the viewer speechless.
Marianne (Liv Ullmann) is a successful lawyer in her 60s who returns to her ex-husband's solitary retreat just for a visit. Her ex-husband Johan (Erland Josephson), since remarried and redivorced, has a son Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt) by another wife who lives nearby on the lake: Henrik is a musician and writer and lives with his daughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius), teaching her cello in preparation for an audition at the music conservatory. What Marianne finds after thirty years absence is that Johan and Henrik are on bitter terms, that Karin is frustrated with her demanding teacher/father, and that the recurring 'saraband' movement of this story is the mutual adoration and mourning of Anna, Karin's mother and Henrik's deceased wife. Marianne and Johan muse over their past lives, discovering that despite circumstances they still love each other. Marianne is able to open the hearts of Karin, Johan, and Henrik and provide a tender voice that brings a degree of resolution to a family broken.
As with all of Bergman's films it is not the story content as the method in telling that makes his films so indelibly and quietly passionate. Everything is understated: solo sequences are played with Bach's solo cello suites, and when two or more characters interact the music becomes Brahms and Bruckner. This is an elegant pastoral about looking into the mirror of our souls in old age and finding both the beauties and the missed opportunities of a life now passing toward the end. Each of the four actors is splendid, though watching Liv Ullmann in her native tongue is a renaissance of memory of all the fine work this extraordinary actress has done. Bergman gives us an elegy not a eulogy and one can only hope for more. Highly recommended on every level. In Swedish with English subtitles. Grady Harp, February 06"