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TCM Imports - March 2019
Remind Me
,The Passion of Anna

The Passion of Anna

Sunday March, 31 2019 at 04:00 AM

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The Passion of Anna (1969) was the third of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's island trilogy of Hour of the Wolf (1968) and Shame (1968). In it, Max von Sydow plays Andreas, a man who has recently ended his marriage. Depressed, he goes to live on an island and has an affair with a woman named Anna who has lost her husband (also named Andreas) and son. Interwoven into the narrative are subplots involving a mysterious psychopath who is slaughtering animals, and Andreas' possible spiritual possession by Anna's dead husband.

During a seminar at the American Film Institute in 1973, Liv Ullmann (who played Anna) recalled working with Bergman and how he experimented in this film by allowing the actors to deviate from the script. "He has always been very strict in wanting us to keep to his sentences. There was the dinner party in The Passion of Anna where the four tell their own story. In that scene, we had complete freedom. But we had to stick to the character. One day a lady arrived and made a beautiful dinner. Max von Sydow drank red wine and all of us asked him questions. He had to answer as the character and the camera was on him all the time. Bergman did the same thing with all four of us. Then he edited it. Bergman further experimented by interviewing the actors during the film, The characters sort of came out and spoke as the character. [A]fter the picture was finished he asked us to come to the studio and to speak as actors. Bibi Andersson used the text from her character."

According to Peter Cowie in his book, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography, shooting the film (from September to December 1968) was full of difficulties. Max von Sydow was under pressure also, for he was appearing at the Royal Dramatic Theater for two performances each weekend during the forty-five day production schedule and had to commute by boat during the late fall season. Sven Nykvist [Bergman's cinematographer] and Bergman frustrated each other; Bergman felt a recurrence of his old stomach ulcer and Nykvist suffered dizzy spells. In the final stages even the editing proved difficult, and over eleven thousand feet were left on the cutting room floor. [..] Conditions for the crew were similar [at the studio] to those on any location. They worked from 7:30 AM to 5 PM except for Monday, and in their free time they could play ping-pong, bathe in the icy sea, drink wine and eat cheese, and amuse themselves at the holiday campsite of Sudersand, when it was open.

Released in Sweden in November 1969 and in the United States in May 1970, The Passion of Anna won Bergman the National Film Critics Award for Best Director. It was a New York Times Critics' Pick. Vincent Canby in his review for the Times praised the film, saying , "The Passion of Anna is one of Bergman's most beautiful films (it is his second in color), all tawny, wintry grays and browns, deep blacks, and dark greens, highlighted occasionally by splashes of red, sometimes blood. It is also, on the surface, one of his most lucid, if a film that tries to dramatize spiritual exhaustion can be ever said to be really lucid. However, like all of Bergman's recent films, it does seem designed more for the indefatigable Bergman cryptologists (of which I am not one) than for interested, but uncommitted filmgoers. [I] also have the feeling that Bergman, who has a marvelous way of setting his scene and introducing his characters, especially the peripheral ones, becomes, in his role of film creator, rather like one of his own heroes. The director circles in closer and closer to the heart of the film, finally to find a void, or a secret so private that we can only guess its meaning."

Producer: Lars-Owe Carlberg
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Production Design: P.A. Lundgren
Costume Design: Mago
Film Editing: Siv Lundgren
Cast: Max von Sydow (Andreas Winkelman), Liv Ullmann (Anna Fromm), Bibi Andersson (Eva Vergerus), Erland Josephson (Elis Vergerus), Erik Hell (Johan Andersson), Sigge Furst (Verner), Annika Kronberg (Katarina).

by Lorraine LoBianco

The New York Times Review by Vincent Canby, May 29, 1970
Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography by Peter Cowie
Ingmar Bergman: An Artists Journey by Roger W. Oliver. The Internet Movie Database