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Sista skriket (The Last Gasp)

Posted by martinteller on April 20, 2013

This is a rare treat for me these days: watching an Ingmar Bergman film I’ve never seen before.  There are actually 18 of them according to IMDb, but except for 2 shorts, they’re all made-for-TV movies.  Most of them, like this one, are televised versions of his theatrical productions.

The film runs nearly an hour.  In the first 10 minutes or so, Bergman gives a history lesson in the “golden age” of Swedish cinema, roughly from 1916 to 1920.  This was the era of iconic directors like Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller, and the movie mogul Charles Magnusson.  As Magnusson gains success, other studios start to flourish.  Eventually, Magnusson buys them up and drives out the competition.  Among the careers he destroyed was that of Georg af Klercker, a director of 26 films from 1916 to 1918.

The rest of the film stages a fictional meeting between Magnusson (Ingvar Kjellson) and Klercker (Björn Granath), some unspecified number of years later, in Magnusson’s office.  Magnusson has invited Klercker, for reasons that are never stated.  Klercker barely lets him get a word in edgewise.  It’s a massively impressive performance by Granath, who talks nonstop for 40 minutes, with Kjellson only occasionally getting in a monosyllabic response to a question.  Klercker is trying to win back his career, and runs the gamut of gambits.  Evoking the nostalgia of the good old days, presenting Magnusson with an intriguing idea, flattery, begging on his knees, humiliating him with knowledge of sexual exploits, and finally threats of a murder/suicide.  Just learning all the lines must have been a tremendous undertaking… handling the shifting gears of his desperation is masterful.  Kjellson, though it’s tougher to gauge his performance, manages to shift between annoyance, guilt and anger with variations on the same dour facial expressions.

This would make an excellent companion piece to Bildmakarna (“The Image Makers”), Bergman’s televised adaptation of a stage play about the making of The Phantom Carriage.  You could also tack on another one and make it a trilogy: Markisinnan de Sade is not far from the movie that Klercker pitches.  None come close to the cinematic heights of Bergman’s masterpieces — they’re all quite stagey — but they are all worthwhile TV movies.  Rating: Very Good (80)


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