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Ingmar Bergman announced in 1982 that he was done with making movies with Fanny and Alexander, and yet almost 25 years since then comes the movie the elderly writer/director once again proclaims to be his last in Saraband.
The sequel to the 1973 film Scenes from a marriage, Saraband follows Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) thirty years after their previous sighting. They are divorced and haven’t spoken in 32 years until one day Marianne decides to track Johan down. He inherited a fortune from a relative and has gone into seclusion in the hills, his son and granddaughter (Julia Dufvenius and BÃƒÂ¶rje Ahlstedt) live in a cottage he owns, and Marianne walks back into the dark tragedy that is Johan’s life.
The title comes from cello suites composed by Bach (dances for couples). Saraband follows the shape of the dance, as the four main characters engage in a sort of dance with each other about their lives. Marianne views her former marriage to Johan in a much different context thirty years after they split; to him he’s still the sweetheart whose only fault was sleeping around. To Henrik, Johan is still the same cruel man to him since his childhood. For Karin, Johan is her kindly old grandfather who wants the best for her.
Featuring only four characters, there is plenty of screen time to go around and character development to be had. Going with familiar faces, Bergman lets his actors dictate the pace. He gives them enough time and space to be able to due their craft; this is a case of a director being comfortable enough with an ensemble cast to let them breathe life into their characters.
The plot is also very solid as well. There are no major turns or twists for the sake of; Saraband has a solid story that doesn’t try to do things that are flashy. This is a story of a man and his family coming to grips with the realities of the world they’ve foisted upon themselves.
Bergman also shoots the film very well; the scenery of the location is used to great effect but Bergman doesn’t overwhelm things with too many background shots.
Saraband is a quality drama with terrific acting, but it stops from being a masterpiece by being marred with audio clues Bergman constantly puts in. The movie has the unfortunate problem of having a dramatic audio cue whenever something is happening; it takes away a lot from what he’s trying to accomplish. The plot seems superfluous until the music hits and once that happens the assumption is that something serious is about to happen.