Loosely based on a real event from Bergman’s life, this tale of betrayed relationships is remarkably frank and open, unafraid to tackle the subject in all its ugly honesty. And while its style is a bit off-putting, it’s still a deeply disturbing, moving film experience. We watch the events through the eyes of an old filmmaker (Josephson) who’s engaged in the creative process, conjuring up ghosts from his past to weave into a new story. His greatest effort is in seeing the events from the woman’s point of view, and Marianne (Endre) becomes the storyteller, recounting her affair with David (Henriksson), a film director who is also her husband’s (Hanzon) best friend. Caught in the middle is their young daughter (Gylemo).
The process of creating thinly veiled fiction is a fascinating one as the author gets under the skin of his characters, examining real events and inventing fantasy to craft a story that rings utterly true. And all the while he’s also delving into a very difficult episode from his own life, told mostly in monologues, voiceovers that run across scenes of joy and pain. Endre is absolutely stunning, opening herself up with a raw honesty that is almost embarrassing to watch. We can feel everything along with her, and Josephson’s muted responses also ring true in a startling way. All of the performances are gritty and real, bringing out the themes of fidelity and faithfulness–not just sexually, but emotionally, spiritually and intellectually as well. It’s a provocative, deeply detailed film, finely crafted both in the studio and in the editing room by Ullman. Yes, it’s very long, and its layered structure is a bit exhausting and contrived. But it’s well worth seeing … as long as two and a half hours of intense Swedish drama don’t scare you off!