A lot has been said about the filmmaker Ingmar Bergman throughout the realms of cinema, literature, and now the internet. There are even two autobiographies – “Magic Lantern” and “Images” – that also account for his life, obsessions, relationships, and, above all, death. In fact, fans of Bergman were quite pleased in the mid-2000s when he offered us a final work and an opportunity to bid farewell to his followers, his actors, and to conclude his body of work and all those obsessions in “Saraband,” his cinematic testament.
For that reason, I do not intend to conduct an exhaustive study of Ingmar Bergman’s work here, much less about his personality or the ability he had to express, through a camera or on a theatrical stage, all of his concerns, developing an eloquent and highly compact career that went through the classic beginning of identity search, self-discovery, critical approval, establishment of success, and demonstration of his mastery as a film director. Always bearing in mind that today’s tastes change and it’s not to everyone’s liking either.
Saraband, Ingmar Bergman’s Cinematic Testament
Saraband (2003) is the continuation of Scenes from a Marriage (1973), the return of the couple formed by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, first as a married couple and later as old friends who haven’t seen each other in nearly 30 years. In the first part, not much importance was given to the couple’s children, actually two girls; however, in the second part, we are shown the circumstances in which one of their daughters is found, as well as a son of Josephson with another woman, in a relationship full of resentment and only sustained by the presence of the granddaughter, whose future is uncertain. I won’t disclose the circumstances in which the daughter of both is found, as it’s practically revealed at the beginning of the film, because it’s not really the main theme, but it’s important because it shows, in this specific case, the consequences of a poorly managed paternal relationship.
If the only solution available to a mother or parents is to admit their child to a psychiatric hospital for them to have a somewhat balanced or dignified life (if that adjective can be applied to this), it means that the rest of the available options for their well-being leave much to be desired, even though it’s difficult to gauge to what extent it’s questionable or whether parents can be judged for “abandoning” their child, just as a child would “abandon” their parent in a nursing home over time. It’s very difficult to have an opinion on this, because it involves weighing a father’s love against impoverished or limited life circumstances from various angles, for everyone affected.
The first film that came to mind when reading about this incident was The Keys to the House (Gianni Amelio, 2004), an Italian film that deals with a father of a disabled child. A rather tough and difficult-to-watch movie, especially because it delves quite accurately into what it must feel like to have a child in such conditions: moving, sad, with some dialogues that leave multiple doubts and questions in the viewer’s mind, if the subject interests them.
And the thing is, taking care of someone dependent who will have to live without you once you’re gone from this world must not be easy to imagine. What happened in that family, the real one, the one in the news, is quite disturbing, because in the face of uncertainties, everyone finds their own answers and several questions arise related to family, children, lack of assistance, abortion… and above all, life, what life means, and to what extent that couple might not have had another way out.
But well, there’s no need to dwell on it, because overthinking is harmful and you end up overthinking things, and in “Saraband,” aging is also addressed, a topic rarely covered (due to the fear and lack of interest it might evoke).
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.