Within the constant battle of sexes, dominance and the many layers of social conditioning being gradually shed, three brilliant actors construct Strindberg's tragedy while Ullmann frees them by working around them. And as the ritual claustrophobic experience drains us with its austerity and overlong duration, it also powerfully conducts us to its purpose. It wins you over, even with Chastain's sketchy irish accent.
TIFF '14 Ullmann provides a faithful rendering of the Strindberg play despite relocating it to the north of Ireland and provides her actors the space amongst the manor to truly deliver powerhouse turns. Jessica Chastain is breathtaking here but is well matched by Samantha Morton and a career best turn by Colin Farrell. Ullmann obviously has a feel for the material and excels in this adaptation.
People are confused - the beginning was a little off balance but it's fascinating and well-acted once it finds its footing. I read the play before seeing this, and Liv Ullmann really "got" it and made it even darker and more interesting than it was intended to be. Chastain gives one of the best performances of the year. That scene where she's on the floor.... goddamn.
Ingmar Bergman is looking down from heaven and is proud of Liv Ullmann. People have called her direction here too static, but I think it’s just restrained. This is a film about raw performance, and she’s smart enough to know how to contain it all.