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last update 18.Feb.18
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The Magic Flute
5/5   MUSTMUST SEESEE   Trollflöjten
dir Ingmar Bergman
prd Mans Reutersward
scr Emanuel Schikaneder, Ingmar Bergman
with Josef Kostlinger, Irma Urrila, Hakan Hagegard, Ulrik Cold, Birgit Nordin, Ragnar Ulfung, Elisabeth Erikson, Erik Saeden, Britt-Marie Aruhn, Kirsten Vaupel, Birgitta Smiding, Gosta Pruzelius
kostlinger, hagegard and the three ladies release Swe 4.Oct.75,
US 11.Nov.75
reissue UK 16.Mar.18
75/Sweden 2h15
The Magic Flute Ingmar Bergman's ambitious 1975 film adaptation of Mozart's opera gets a pristine restoration, and it's well worth seeing on a big screen. With a generous undercurrent of wit running right through it, this is a hugely engaging version of the epic quest. So the music comes thrillingly to life (it's sung in Swedish with English subtitles), with added dialog and witty cinematic trickery.

At first sight, handsome Prince Tamino (Kostlinger) is entranced by Princess Pamina (Urrila). Charged by Pamina's mother the Queen (Nordin) to rescue her from her evil father Sarastro (Cold), Tamino is given a magical flute to help him, plus a sidekick in the impulsive, lovelorn Papageno (Hagegard). Then they discover that they've been lied to. Sarastro is a benevolent high priest, and Tamino and Papageno decide to undergo three trials to join his order. Meanwhile, the villainous Queen is has made a nefarious plan with slave-trader Monostatos (Ulfung), who wants Pamina for himself.

Berman stages this in a theatre, with cut-out sets and even cutaways to the audience's reactions. But he also plays cleverly with filmmaking techniques, using surprising camera angles and some brilliant editing, while indulging in some fiendishly inventive on-set effects. This allows the movie look both colourfully fantastical and eerily grounded in our own world. Which makes the decision to sing it in Swedish feel almost cheeky. But then, everything on screen twinkles with a sense of humour.

The cast is bright and energetic, led by the handsome young Kostlinger and Hagegard who play Tamino and Papageno with a bracingly earnest sense of both joy and pain. They're so likeable that we can't help but root for them as they go through their respective trials as they search for purpose and companionship. Urrila's Pamina and Erikson's Papagena are terrific as their female leads, adding terrific prickly edges to the roles. And Cold's Sarastro is a remarkably complex figure of religious fanaticism and benevolent politics.

Everything about this film is playful, even in the story's darker sequences. It's a narrative that's infused with life, exploring the complexities of good and evil, as well as the lengths we should be willing to go to in order to do what we know is the right thing. It's rare to find a Bergman movie that's this overwhelmingly happy, but then operas that keep us smiling aren't exactly run-of-the-mill. And this is a film that beautifully conveys a blast of pure hope.

PG themes, violence
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The Touch
4/5   Beröringen
dir-scr Ingmar Bergman
prd Ingmar Bergman, Lars-Owe Carlberg
with Elliott Gould, Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow, Sheila Reid, Barbro Hiort af Ornas, Ake Lindstrom, Mimmo Wahlander, Elsa Ebbesen, Staffan Hallerstam, Maria Nolgard, Anna von Rosen, Karin Gry
andersson and gould
release US 14.Jul.71,
Swe 30.Aug.71
reissue UK 23.Feb.18
71/Sweden 1h55
The Touch Bergman's underrated classic gets a welcome revisit in this impeccable restoration. This is a remarkable exploration of the laws of attraction, with fiercely complex characters and situations that continually subvert expectations. It's also notable for its use of multi-lingual dialog, adding a layer of cultural intrigue to a drama that's already packed with spiky observations.

In a small community on Sweden's coast, American archaeologist David (Gould) arrives to supervise the restoration of an antique artefact found in a church. He befriends local doctor Andreas (von Sydow) and is instantly smitten with his wife Karin (Andersson). And he lets her know of his intentions. Soon they begin an affair, but both are emotionally scarred by their deep, dark pasts. And by the time they realise that they can't live without each other, it's time for David to return to London, where his sister (Reid) needs him as well.

The film is masterfully written and directed, bringing witty and darkly emotional touches to every scene. Bergman cleverly uses light, shadows and colour, bringing his camera into extreme close-ups that seem to push faces together. It's a sometimes startling effect, but it bolsters the intense connection between the characters, and augments the sometimes uneasy style of acting. Settings are also skilfully used, both the natural seaside beauty in various seasons and the claustrophobic sense of watchful small-town eyes.

Everything centres around Andersson's yearning performance as a woman with no reason to abandon her loving husband and two smart kids (Hallerstam and Nolgard), but can't resist this young man's soulfulness. It's a riveting performance that never takes the easy way through a scene, and the fact that we can't quite understand her thinking makes Karin strikingly realistic and even sympathetic. Opposite her, Gould is perfectly lost: David is a hang-dog guy who goes with the flow, never quite owning his feelings. And von Sydow is also terrific as Karin's eerily understanding husband.

There's a dark complexity to this movie that perhaps explains why it has never been acknowledged as one of Bergman's masterpieces, and yet it holds up decades later as a particularly provocative exploration of desire. By refusing to take a moralising route through the topic, Bergman is making profound comments on the nature of attraction and commitment. And by encouraging his cast to deliver textured performances, he cleverly explores how impossible it is in the real world to know why we fall for each other.

15 themes, language, sexuality

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