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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Törst (Three Strange Stories)


Yes I have seen many Ingmar Bergman films with some that are still in my mind years and years after I watched them. But I have to admit that his earlier work has been inaccessible to me, until now.

Bergman is never simple and this film is no exception. Then finding that the idea and screenplay is not his, allowed me to understand why I did not found some key elements that I believe are always in his movies.

According to historians, Bergman had a tumultuous life (to say the least) and “to compensate for being a complete mess as a human being”, he decided he must at least try to shine as a filmmaker. With Three Strange Loves (1949), brought to him already scripted by Herbert Grevenius, he had the opportunity to give a convincing demonstration of sheer professional skill.

The screenplay was based on a controversial collection of short stories, Törst (Thirst) by Birgit Tengroth; better known as an actress, she was a logical choice to play a leading role in her own stories and she plays Viola. From the short stories collection “Thirst” became a flashback to Rut’s unhappy affair with Raoul, “The Faith Healer” became Viola’s visit to the psychiatrist, and “Avant de Mourir” was Viola’s disastrous evening with Valborg.

What I find most interesting is that the linking narrative, the turbulent train-ride from Basle to Stockholm as endured by Rut and her long-suffering husband Bertil, was derived from “Journey of Arethusa”. At the end you have four stories blended into one story told with flashbacks.

The complexity of blending the stories was brilliantly resolved and you can enjoy a young Bergman that uses the camera to give messages that are as much visual as verbal. One thing called my attention and was the dark scenes with Rut and Bertil and the clear almost white scenes with Viola.

Reading about the movie I found that Bergman had a phobia to July and August, when the sun shines day after day, and call them “a dreadful torment”. Then is easy to understand the cruel contrast between sunlight and shadow that he skillfully uses in this film.

As we all Bergman aficionados know, everything in his films has a meaning and here not only objects mean something (like the crystal carafe, the snake on an ant-hill, etc) but his own cameo as a train passenger also does.

This is a great Bergman film, but it is a different Bergman film, so if you decide to see it please remember that this is neither his idea nor his script.

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