Ingmar Bergman's SHAME is a tremendously profound and unsettling film about the indignities of war. In remarkably subtle performances, Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow play a middle-class couple whose quietly honed existence is forever shattered by a mysterious civil war tearing across
Former concert violinists Eva and Jan Rosenberg (Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow) work and live on a small island, where they've escaped the war on the mainland. The apolitical Rosenbergs concern themselves only with selling the produce that they grow in their greenhouse. Despite ominous warnings of an
impending invasion, the couple cling to their routine and ponder their future. Without warning, military warplanes fill the sky with explosions and gunfire while an officer warns Jan and Eva to evacuate immediately. Before they have a chance to start their car, Jan and Eva are ambushed by a film
crew, who demand to know their political beliefs. Eva says that they have no interest in the war and the two are set free. Later, the Rosenbergs are arrested because of Eva's interview--which has been completely re-dubbed by a voice spouting revolutionary propaganda.
Considered by many critics to be one of Bergman's masterpieces, SHAME is certainly one of his most accessible. In the 1960s, Bergman moved to Faro, a small Swedish island in the Baltic where he also shot a series of daring and introspective films. In two of those "island" films--PERSONA (1966) and
THE PASSION OF ANNA (1969)--he experimented with self-reflexive form and fragmented narratives using the bleak landscape as an existential purgatory where his characters were exiled. But with SHAME, Bergman felt compelled to make a non-political statement about the dehumanization of war as the
conflict in Vietnam intensified.
SHAME's power is its simplicity. Cinematographer Sven Nykvist bathes the scenery in harsh sunlight, which gives the film an otherworldly and dreamlike glow. Longtime regulars Ullmann, von Sydow, and Gunnar Bjornstrand embody their characters with a raw emotionalism that's upsetting and not always
easy to watch. Bergman hardly shows any violence, yet his spare stylistic touches--phones and automobiles that fail to work, the sound of water lapping against a boat full of doomed passengers--brilliantly convey the horror of destruction and how the greater ideologies of politics don't matter when one is faced with survival and death.
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- Review: Ingmar Bergman's SHAME is a tremendously profound and unsettling film about the indignities of war. In remarkably subtle performances, Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow play a middle-class couple whose quietly honed existence is forever shattered by a mysterio… (more)