The late Susan Sontag was a formidable presence in the literary world, writing both novels and essays that changed the way that many people thought about art, literature, philosophy, and film. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that Sontag was also a filmmaker. Aside from making me feel like an idiot, I was happy to discover that Metrograph Pictures is responsible for re-releasing her first film (out of four), Duet For Cannibals. Metrograph has been on a roll with their repertory film game out of their movie-house in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for three years, and shortly after, they started releasing and re-releasing films under the Metrograph Pictures moniker.
“…Ingrid eventually gets drawn into the Bauer’s powerful web as well…”
Duet For Cannibals is definitely an interesting choice for re-release. The movie is strange in almost every sense of the word. There’s the fact that Sontag decided to write and direct the film in Swedish, with (mostly) Swedish actors. Then there’s the film in and of itself. The plot is very heady, very sixties, and exceptionally European. At the outset, Tomas (Gosta Ekman) and Ingrid (Agneta Ekmanner) are two young idealistic types who live together in a small flat. Ingrid secures Tomas a job interview with famous revolutionary Dr. Bauer (Lars Ekborg). When Tomas arrives at Dr. Bauer’s home for the interview, the doctor requests that Tomas move into his home to help organize a series of confidential documents, and additionally keep his wife company if she requests. Francesca (Adriana Asti) is Bauer’s Italian wife who suffers from an undisclosed mental illness, or so Bauer says.
Ingrid is not happy about the fact that Tomas has to live with the Bauer’s while working for them, but Tomas is too intrigued by the work, and Mrs. Bauer, to care. It doesn’t take long for things to start to get very weird. Francesca has a thing for Tomas, it seems, and Bauer floats back and forth between caring and not caring. Something starts to become clear as Tomas’ infatuation with Francesca escalates, this is a game for the Bauer’s that could have possibly been played before. We start to believe that Francesca isn’t the ill one, that Bauer is actually suffering from a terminal illness. We never know if either of these things is true. All that we know is that Ingrid eventually gets drawn into the Bauer’s powerful web as well, meaning at one point or another both Bauer’s sleep with either Ingrid or Tomas, and both are left thrown through a loop.