A lush, sweeping, and passionate epic in the David Lean mold, KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER is the impressive second film to come from actress-turned-filmmaker Liv Ullmann.
In the 14th-century Norwegian town of Gudbrandsdalen, Kristin Lavransdatter (Elisabeth Matheson) lives with her kind and attentive parents. Her father, Lavrans (Sverre Anker Ousdal), is a landowner and her mother, Ragnfrid (Henny Moan), remains devoted to Lavrans despite some compromises she made
before they married. Lavrans places his hopes upon Kristin, since her sister is handicapped and her three brothers were killed in war. When she turns 18, Lavrans arranges for her to marry Simon Darre (Jorgen Langhelle), the son of a fellow landowner. Kristin is horrified at the notion of a
loveless marriage and persuades her family to let her stay in a convent in Oslo before she marries, so she can carefully make a decision. While socializing in town, Kristin spots dashing knight Erlend Nikulausson (Bjorn Skagestad) staring at her. Soon, they meet formally and fall deeply in love.
Kristin decides to defy her father and marry Erlend. But Erlend, it turns out, has been living for ten years with a married woman, Eline Ormsdatter (Lena Endre), with whom he has had children.
When she returns home, Kristin decides to tell Simon and her parents about her plans to marry Erlend. Simon takes the news badly, while Lavrans is devastated by his daughter's desire for Erlend, whom he considers an unscrupulous man. Ragnfrid, angered by Lavrans's harsh judgment of Kristin's
actions, confesses to Lavrans that she too slept with another man before she married him--and that one of their sons might have belonged to her lover. Lavrans is stunned, but he forgives Ragnfrid and decides that his daughter must follow her heart. Kristin makes plans for their wedding, but the
ceremony is plagued by tragedy when a fire guts the entire church. Still, the participants gather together in the ruins of the church and become husband and wife.
Edited down from its original Norwegian running time of three hours, KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER received a home-video release in the US in 1998 after limited theatrical releases around the country. Even in its edited state, KRISTIN remains a masterfully conceived and executed fable about the moral
consequences of an all-consuming passion. Based on the first book of Sigrid Undset's three-volume novel, the film has the look of a centuries-old picture postcard, with Sven Nykvist's unapologetically lush cinematography showcasing the wonders of the Norwegian landscape. Ullmann frequently makes
metaphorical use of the scenery, giving it the status of a character in the film--as in the sequence where Kristin must cross a rock-filled path on a journey to meet Erlend for a forbidden tryst at the beach. Ullmann has been clearly influenced as a filmmaker by her mentor Ingmar Bergman. This
influence becomes most apparent in KRISTIN when the characters' actions seem guided by an unseen and judgmental God (the sort of uncaring deity that rules over Bergman's world). The Bergman connection is also made in the scene in which Erlend feeds Kristin some freshly picked berries; here, one
is reminded of the moment in THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957) in which a young couple traveling the countryside offers some strawberries to a weary knight (Max von Sydow) in medieval Scandinavia.
The film also boasts a number of fine performances, particularly from Matheson, who bears a striking resemblance to the young Ullmann. Skagestad does a finely nuanced turn as Erlend, making it uncertain whether the character's intentions are honorable or if he's just a cad. Bergman regular Erland
Josephson puts in a brief appearance, playing a man of the cloth who tries in vain to counsel Kristin about her romantic and sexual dilemmas. The film's most unaffected performance, however, comes from Henny Moan; during the sequence in which Ragnfrid confesses her love for the man she slept with
long ago, Moan's face conveys the pain of lost love and the acceptance of compromise. Ullmann sets the scene in the dark, cramped confines of the couple's modest cabin--a comfortable, homey setting for a harsh, shattering revelation. The scene is one that would make Bergman proud. (Adult themes,violence.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: NR
- Review: A lush, sweeping, and passionate epic in the David Lean mold, KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER is the impressive second film to come from actress-turned-filmmaker Liv Ullmann. In the 14th-century Norwegian town of Gudbrandsdalen, Kristin Lavransdatter (Elisabeth Mat… (more)