This is ruminative and briefly surreal film about ageing that feels fairly indebted to A Christmas Carol, unless there is a Swedish work that covers something similar.
It’s interesting, having watched Through a Glass Darkly earlier in the week, that films feels far more stylistically unique and identifiably Bergmanesque, to me anyway. And it was made only 4 years later. That isn’t to say that this film isn’t distinct – the early dream sequence feels particularly distinct – but only that Bergman does seem to have refined his style a lot in the intervening years. (Maybe the most accurate thing is to say that this one is an outlier, at least among the films I’ve seen. Because, of course, The Seventh Seal came out the same year.)
So this man is getting a career achievement award – ish – and he’s starting to reflect back on his life as he travels to the ceremony. And, in doing so, he has some wild dreams, only two of which are really as out there as anything in A Christmas Carol but which definitely gave me that vibe. I can’t remember, off the top of my head, too many other works of art from the 19th century or the early 20th that feature a man literally watching his memories play out in front of him. But that could speak to my ignorance. (Of course, many films have referenced this one since.) It also vaguely reminded me of Ikiru but I think all that says is that I cannot remember anything about Ikiru.
Two of the dreams are rather interesting and surreal, the first of which is really out there (and made me briefly question what type of movie I was watching) and the other of which feels like one of my own dreams. (I always really like those dream sequences.) One of the interesting aspects of the dreams/reveries is the harp sound: is this the birth of the harp flashback sound? It might be. I don’t know if it was ever used before. (Wavy lines on the screen date back to very early cinema, apparently.)
Much like The Seventh Seal, this film stands out from a lot of contemporary cinema as pretty damn unique. And, notably, this feels like a very different film from The Seventh Seal – perhaps one of the more remarkable things about this movie is that it’s Bergman’s next film.
But I’m not 100% sure what to make of it. I think Sjostrom is good but I also don’t fully feel his coldest. He certainly doesn’t seem like as much of a dick as some of the characters portray him to be. Is that on Sjostrom or Bergman or are they trying to say that there is that much misunderstanding in the world. I should say that I don’t think this is a criticism, as it’s okay to see a film where you’re not sure what to make of it.