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Posted by martinteller on June 14, 2013

Bo (Birger Malmsten) is returning home for a weekend furlough from the navy.  He reflects back on a time when his 12-year-old self (Lasse Sarri) ran away from home… an endeavor that had tragic consequences.  Now he is haunted by grim thoughts of death.  Once home, he reconnects with childhood sweetheart Eva (Eva Stiberg).  The two fall in love and get engaged, but Eva’s sunnier outlook is unable to penetrate Bo’s dark attitude.  He heads to the city to make a career for himself as a trumpeter.  He stays with a friend, Göran (Stig Olin), and his wife Susanne (Eva Dahlbeck).  In their cramped apartment, Bo’s attitude becomes even darker in the face of Susanne’s blatant come-ons and Göran’s cold cynicism about their unsteady marriage.

The film is directed by Gustaf Molander, but it’s based on a Bergman story and script, and it has Ingmar’s stamp on it.  The feel is similar to other early Bergman films like Music in Darkness and Summer With Monika, and death is of course a common theme for Bergman.  There is a loose episodic nature to the narrative, which can make it feel a bit disjointed.  It’s essentially in four “chunks” rather than acts, and the Dahlbeck/Olin chunk is rather out of place.  I liked that part a great deal for its noir atmosphere (Dahlbeck should be a femme fatale more often) so it didn’t bother me too much, but there is the sensation that you’re suddenly watching a different movie.

Still, the drama is quite strong — if occasionally a little muddled — and the dialogue is rich and natural.  Bergman’s best writing was still years to come, but even this early in his career there’s talent to be seen.  Characters show levels of complexity and transformations are believable.  Molander’s direction is fine as well, with some lovely camerawork that captures both the darkness and the joy that battle within Bo’s heart.  Credit also to the performers.  Stiberg has a Harriet Andersson-ish quality, which is perhaps why Bergman didn’t use her that much (why bother when you’ve got Harriet?).  Malmstem, Dalhbeck and Olin were all part of his regular stable, and for good reason.  Malmsten’s character is similar to the one Olin would play in To Joy two years later… both are strong enough and versatile enough to handle those veins of inner conflict.

Some structural problems aside, a rewarding film.  Rating: Very Good (81)


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