This contains both the original 6 part TV mini series, and the almost 100 minute shorter theatrical version.
In either guise, this is an amazing exploration of the decline and fall of a marriage, and the change, regressions and
growth of the two people in it. While a few other characters appear briefly, this is almost entirely a 2 actor piece, taking
place in small rooms, shot mostly in close ups. Brutally honest about its characters' considerable shortcomings, it also
extends to them a generosity and grace.
The two central performances by Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson are uncompromising and uncompromised, completely
honest and truthful, as if we were eavesdropping on a real couple. Astonishing work by both.
It's also an interesting portrait of a social moment - the early 70s - when women were finding their voice as equal partners
in marriage and society through the women's liberation movement. The piece feels dated, but only in an interesting way as
a look back, and yet seems to have paradoxically lost none of it's relevance. Styles and social customs may evolve, different
countries may deal with sex or affairs with somewhat different attitudes, but the desperately complex mix of needs, wants,
hurts, resentments and true love that make up a marriage seem to transcend time and place.
A very few moments feels forced or untrue, and another very few feel extraneous, but this is a remarkable film.
It also ushers in a new phase in Bergman's career, as the ever evolving artist moves into a kind of simple, naturalistic reality
that marked much of the work from this point on in his career. Gone are the heavy (if often tremendously effective) symbols
and surrealistic touches. This is life; raw, painful, rich and uncompromised.
I'm in the minority in that, for me the shortened feature version doesn't lose much in comparison to the 100 minute longer
TV mini-series it was edited from. While some interesting details that helped flesh out the story were gone, there is also a
laser like focus and heightened intensity that's been gained. For me it's a toss up. They're both great, landmark pieces of
film-making and acting, with slightly different strengths and weaknesses, but similar total effect.