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Venetianskan (The Venetian)

Posted by martinteller on February 13, 2014

Adapted from a 16th century Italian play of unknown authorship, the story concerns the romantic exploits of Julio (Folke Sundquist), a newly-arrived stranger in the city of Venice.  The strapping lad catches the attention of Valeria (Gunnel Lindblom), and she has her servant girl Oria (Helena Reuterblad) arrange a rendezvous.  But Valeria’s neighbor Angela (Eva Stiberg) wants a piece of the action too, and she sends her servant girl Nena (Maud Hansson) to intercept him.  Nena recruits the help of gondolier Bernardo (Sture Lagerwall), who tells Julio he’s got a sure thing with Angela.  Opting for the definite tryst rather than the coy possibility, Julio lands in Angela’s arms.  But Valeria’s jealousy flares.

There aren’t many Bergman films left for me to discover.  Slowly the TV productions are starting to pop up with subtitles in the underworld recesses of the internet, and after this, there are only 7 left for me.  I wish someone would collect them all, restore them (if that’s even possible) and release them in a complete DVD set.  Because his television work is as good as many of his feature films, and better than a number of them.  This is a delightful little (55 minutes) ribald play.  It’s amazing what you could get away with on Swedish television in 1958.  Certainly on American TV at the time you wouldn’t have heard so much blatant sexual innuendo, lines like “A light meal is preferable, so that the warhorse doesn’t droop when it’s time for the tournament” or “Those two are still ‘stirring the polenta’.”

All the performers (only Lindblom is familiar from Bergman’s films, but some of the others appear in small roles from time to time) are really great and funny, especially Sundquist, Hansson and Lagerwall.  No one is taking anything too seriously, nor are they overdoing the raunchy humor with broad strokes or obvious winks.  Bergman, as he often did in his television work, does little to disguise the theatricality of the production.  The sets are obviously sets, the actors speak directly to the audience, there are title cards held up to the camera for act breaks, and a trio of musicians serves as a Greek chorus.  But he also makes fine use of the camera, particularly when it comes to framing characters behind barriers (a latticework in Valeria’s home, the veil around Angela’s bed).  It’s a lively and fun comedy, with witty commentary on sexual politics and class differences.  I thought the conclusion was rather rushed and a little confusing, but otherwise I really had a good time with this.  Rating: Good (75)


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