Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

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Mr Sausage
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Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:15 pm

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, January 21st.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#2 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:05 pm

I haven't seen Scenes from a Marriage yet, and I doubt I will before the end of this film's Film Club spotlight... do more knowledgeable viewers feel that's fatal to appreciating Saraband, or will I be fine backtracking later?

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swo17
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#3 Post by swo17 » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:54 pm

Would you recommend someone watch Before Midnight before Before Sunset?

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:39 am

Hmm, I didn’t realize it was it that direct of a sequel; somehow I had come under the impression that the connection was less direct and more thematic. I’m pretty ignorant of Bergman post-Persona, but I’m excited to rectify that if I get to actually spend some time with this mega-set...

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knives
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#5 Post by knives » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:08 pm

You're probably thinking of From the Life of Marianets which is a spin off.

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MichaelB
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#6 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 16, 2019 1:21 pm

I'm looking forward to watching Saraband, but even if I keep up my one Bergman a day 2019 rate (Torment on January 1st, Summer with Monika today), I won't be getting round to it until the end of February as I'm watching everything in strict chronological order.

(As a result of which I'd argue that Criterion left out many of the most interesting 1940s titles. I can see why they didn't include the non-Svensk Filmindustri ones, but I think it was a mistake to be quite so doggedly auteurist given that it means that the box doesn't include any of the four 1940s films that were based on original Bergman scripts. And the likes of Alf Sjöberg's Torment and Gustaf Molander's Woman Without a Face and Eva have a more "Bergman" feel to them than many of the films that Bergman himself was helming at the time.)

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Sloper
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Re: Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)

#7 Post by Sloper » Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:53 am

As usual, it took me two weeks to find time to watch the film club film... Overall, I found this very confusing and messy. As with the recent series of Twin Peaks, the connection between Saraband and its predecessor felt distracting and counter-productive. No doubt that is partly because I was hoping to spend more time with Johan and Marianne – in other words, because I love Scenes from a Marriage so much and wanted to return to the world of that film, which was kind of stupid of me – but it’s also because this film seems to be hopping between more characters and relationships than its running time can cope with.

It’s really much more like Autumn Sonata than Scenes from a Marriage, and I think it would have worked better if it had focused more intensively on either the Johan/Henrik or the Henrik/Karin relationship, with Marianne as the pained bystander – equivalent to the husband in Autumn Sonata. Using her as the ‘frame’ of the narrative, occupying the fringes of this intense family drama for a short time and then retreating, is one of the most effective aspects of the film. I love how this framing device leaves us with so many unanswered questions, and with a sense of the intimacy and insularity of the dysfunctional family dynamics we have briefly witnessed. I also like the idea of following up Scenes with a film about the things that were conspicuously absent from (or left on the fringes of) that film: the parent/child relationships.

But to try and say something meaningful about Johan/Marianne, Johan/Henrik, Henrik/Karin, Henrik/Anna, Karin/Anna, Henrik/Anna/Karin, Johan/Anna, and finally Marianne/Martha (and maybe even Marianne/Henrik, Marianne/Karin, and Marianne/Anna), all in less than two hours, is just too much.

Bergman can sometimes paint on a broad canvas without sacrificing clarity. Fanny and Alexander begins very broadly, then narrows its focus in a way that aligns with what happens to the title characters – and then, in the final stages of the film, our broader knowledge of the Ekdahl family pays off. Or there’s Through a Glass Darkly, where we’re introduced to the four family members in a very precise and economical way from the beginning, and gradually and organically come to understand the complex configurations between them; or Winter Light, which is more meandering, but which maintains its focus on the central character and his inner struggles.

I was longing for this kind of precision and focus in Saraband. Again, that’s partly my problem; I guess Bergman is trying to capture something of the indecipherable chaos that defines real-life families. But I couldn’t help thinking he just hadn’t quite settled on what he wanted to say.

In the making-of documentary on the Tartan disc, he talks about how the core idea of the film is something to do with death, and the difficulty of coping with the death (or loss, in other senses) of people we love. He describes Erland Josephson’s advice to ‘hold onto’ his desire to see his late wife again, even if she is in fact lost forever, and seems to say that this was the main driving force of Saraband. So maybe that’s a unifying element here? Marianne, for all that she gets entangled in this drama for a few weeks, has lost Johan and everything associated with him...but at the end she forms a connection with her daughter (a leftover from her marriage with Johan), having always thought this was impossible. Perhaps, in this sense, the framing narrative reflects something that defines all the relationships in the film; a sense of irreparable loss and damage, coupled with a painful, ongoing desire to reclaim and repair. None of these relationships will ever really ‘work’ – they will remain broken and abusive and dysfunctional – but as in Scenes and Autumn Sonata, the characters will keep plugging away, for better or worse. (Probably worse, I tend to think; it’s not a straightforwardly hopeful message.)

I also had a problem with Julia Dufvenius, who plays Karin. Like Elin Klinga in The Image Makers, she seems to be trying too hard to emulate great performances from past Bergman films. Her relentless intensity feels insecure, and I found it hard to believe or invest in the relationship between her and her father – which I think ends up being the centre around which the whole film revolves. I have a similar feeling about Lars Passgård (as Minus) in Through a Glass Darkly, as if there are certain actors who just aren’t well-attuned to Bergman’s writing or direction.

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