Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
With the exception of his elderly housekeeper Miss Agda who he treats almost like a surrogate platonic wife, widowed seventy-eight year old Dr. Isak Borg, a former medical doctor and professor, has retreated from any human contact, partly his own want but partly the decision of others who do not want to spend time with him because of his cold demeanor. He is traveling from his home in Stockholm to Lund to accept an honorary degree. Instead of flying as was the original plan, he decides to take the day long drive instead. Along for the ride is his daughter-in-law Marianne, who had been staying with him for the month but has now decided to go home. The many stops and encounters along the way make him reminisce about various parts of his life. Those stops which make him reminisce directly are at his childhood summer home, at the home of his equally emotionally cold mother, and at a gas station where the attendants praise him as a man for his work. But the lives of other people they ...Written by
It has been included as a continuity error that Marianne says she is going to go swimming at the old house, but when she returns her hair does not appear to be wet. This is not a continuity error, because when the film was shot in the late 1950s, and for at least a decade afterwards, at least in the Nordic countries women gathered their hair up and covered it with a special swimming cap to protect their hair from becoming wet. Some women who had grown up during those times used swimming caps as late as the 1980s, because they had grown up with the custom, and a swimming cap was to them just as integral part of swimming attire as a swimming suit. See more »
Although I'm not the biggest Ingmar Bergman fan, I have really enjoyed some of his movies--especially the one that are not so pessimistic. Although the underlying theme of this movie is aging and impending death, the movie is NOT all pessimism. If it had been, it would have lost my interest early on. Instead, I really enjoyed the film--particularly the fine acting by Victor Sjöström as Professor Borg.
The professor is well-respected for his work as a doctor. However, despite his success in his career, he is a failure in his personal relationships. His emotional baggage over the years has prevented him from allowing himself to be close to those he truly loves. This theme mirrors one of the subplots of Through a Glass Darkly, where a father is being destroyed inside by his daughter's mental illness but he CANNOT allow himself to show his anguish--choosing instead to hide in his room with his tears. It is interesting that the same man playing Borg's son (Gunnar Björnstrand) plays the father only a few years later in Through a Glass Darkly.
Fortunately, unlike Through a Glass Darkly, there IS evidence that the professor is willing to change his persona, as he begins to open up more through the course of the movie. This appears to be assisted through extensive soul searching and dreams the professor has concerning his past and his own mortality--along with experiences he has during a long drive down the coast of Sweden. Because of this, even his extremely strained relationship with his son appears to hold some hope of improvement by the film's end. This hope for change lifts this movie above some Bergman films that only wallow in hopelessness.
FYI--The Criterion version of this DVD is nice due to its running commentary as well as the accompanying documentary. Get this version if you have the chance.
Also FYI--After watching many Bergman films and reading about his life, I detect quite a bit of autobiography in this film and his own stuggles with intimacy.
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