Three Strange Loves (Sweden, 1949):
(Törst)

One of the more interesting entries in Ingmar Bergman's groping-around gestation period, chained to a misleadingly exotic English title (the Swedish original is Thirst, as bluntly uncommercial as his previous Prison). The plot charts the emotional ping-pong of a young married couple, failed ballerina Eva Henning, neurosis shooting out of her fingertips, and prematurely stuffy professor Birger Malmsten, as they ride through bombed-out Europe, with detours for an unstable widow (Brigit Tengroth) and a former dancing school chum gone lesbian (Mimi Nelson). Boiling with the same unbridled creative anguish that perforates the rest of the filmmaker's early output, the movie encases the characters' (and, by extension, Bergman's) turmoil within a stronger cinematic skin -- whether tracking alongside fidgety Henning through a hotel room or recording the suicidal Tengroth walking out of the corner of the image and into her watery demise, Bergman sports a newfound stylistic control over his inner furies. The couple's nagging simmers until Malmsten can only smash a champagne bottle over Henning's gurgling noggin. "That ends her torment as well as mine." A dream, of course, and an escape valve from the film's still-frayed nerves -- it is a couple more years until Summer Interlude. Still, indications abound of Bergman's growing realization that the flashiest of theatrics can't equal the spectacle of two people locked in a cramped space having their emotional shells boiled away by the camera's prying eye. With Hasse Ekman, Bengt Eklund, and Naima Wifstrand. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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