A parable on good and evil set during the transitional era of Medieval Sweden, when paganism and Christianity coexisted. A father seeks savage retribution for the crime perpetrated against his child. An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film.
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Call it a masterpiece is doing an understatement. That one scene when Von Sydow is with his back turning to us it's just the most powerful scene in whole movie where Bergman tries to establish a reflexive distance between us and the character and its dilemma. The lack of emotion it's a way to not feel connected and be able to think without being conditioned by any cinematography trick such as the reverse shot.
Bergman's first film with cinematographer Nykvist is a beautiful looking adaptation of a medieval Swedish ballad in which a father seeks revenge for the brutal rape and murder of his cherished daughter. Bergman was greatly influenced by Kurosawa at the time and the forest setting in which the crime takes place has echoes of Rashômon. The Great Swede considered the film a failure but he was wrong: it's a masterpiece..
Simple, unostentatious and actually not intellectually insulting, it is precisely for these reasons that this is easily Bergman’s solitary film of worth. Spirituality is wrestled with honestly through moral ambiguity of doubt and affirmation but not wielded into certain religious dogmas via abusive symbolism like the usual modus operandi. God is beyond feeble humanistic understanding, answering directly to no one.
A masterpiece, one of Bergman's most lasting, influential and radiantly photographed. A timeless tale involving themes such as morality and religion, told through complex, subtlely understated emotions and relationships. Theatrical and stylised at times, Bergman manages to bring all the elements together to create a compelling drama both credible and visually captivating.