Archive for September 30th, 2020

 © 2020 by James Clark

      At the mid-point of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s career (by then widely recognized to be superlative), he paused in his formidable march of theatrical dramas to do something else. First we’ll pin-point the change. Then we’ll try to understand what it means.

In the midst of his trilogy of assault and carnage, Bergman shot off (in nine days) his rendition of playwright, Eugene Ionesco’s classic of Theatre of the Absurd, namely, Rhinoceros (1960). Bergman named his film, The Rite (1969), whereby hitherto mainstream rationalists disappear in favor of crashing into the inscrutable. There a micro-second of the uncanny becomes haunting, more remarkable, to all the repositories of civilization as it has come to pass. A second form of this breakaway, namely, The Touch (1971), sets up a dead leady (and her flashbacks, and perhaps her granddaughter) as the wisest soul around. Having the right touch, eclipsing a long and lacking romance between two so-called “rebels,” and eclipsing world history itself.

Our film today, Face to Face (1976), could very well comprise an addition to that strange duet noted above, perhaps because, in spite of their audacity, more audacity has to be shown. Here the lion’s share of the film is a protagonist’s dream. That her cogitations go nowhere decisive reverts to the “lover’s” in The Touch and the judge in The Rite. But the protagonist’s dream has become so lengthy because she has a particularly intense undertaking to challenge the rule of pedantry. And in that undertaking, she has come, face to face, not with mere dialogue and dramatic action but with philosophy, wherein the whole universe  is the show.

There is a plethora of familiar features attending to the outset of Face to Face. We can note them; but the clutter of this overture implies something more. Jenny, our protagonist, has a wedding ring exactly like the dead lady in The Touch. Plunges of a sea, maintain for the credits, a cue to dynamics you should not take lightly. A stark asylum anticipates, In the Presence of a Clown (1997).  Our central character has a home with a stain-glass window, which recalls the shocks of The Passion of Anna (1969). The motif is beige; her wardrobe is even more fixed in beige, as with Marianne, the bourgeois disappointment, in Scenes from a Marriage. Jenny phones to her grandmother, on the subject of a radical renovation: “It’s completely empty.” (more…)

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