Gycklarnas Afton

Film

Drama

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Time Out says

Acknowledging the influence of Dupont's Variety - one of the keystones of German expressionism, in which marriage was seen as a perilous high-wire act - Bergman here employs the circus as a metaphor for the humiliating hoops through which men and women are put by their sexual dreams and desires. Heavily masochistic in its anguished account of the futile attempts of an ageing circus owner (Grönberg) and his steely young mistress (Andersson) to escape the dreary limitations of their mutually destructive involvement, it isn't exactly prepossessing in theme. But visually it is a treat, with Bergman's richly baroque compositions and persistent use of deep focus brilliantly exploiting the circus and theatre settings. And the performances are first-rate.
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Release details

UK release:

1953

Duration:

96 mins

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Technoguy

This early Bergman film is the potent visual seed from which all his later (greater) films grow.To see it is to see them before they had been articulated and flowered. All the acting in this superb film is first rate: Anne (Anderson)dripping with sensuality but with a profound saving innocence.Albert(Gronberg) driven as the circus director by anger and humiliation.And Frost(Eckman) the clown to end all clowns,who we see at the beginning in an expressionistic flash-back shot in stark sunlight of unimmaginable horror in long off crowd shots or in close-ups comparable to Christ carrying his cross(his partnerAlma). We are in a travelling circus trekking across the country to its next town.This town is where Albert's wife lives with his children and he's going to see them.She is now successful and he wants to leave his younger mistress and the circus and settle down in security and peace.Anne fears him returning to his wife and she cuckolds him with a sleazy theatrical cad.Bergman's vision of the sexual-emotional battle between the sexes is particulary well realized,the hoops we all(yes us) have to jump through to bond through humiliation and desire and the need for security. However the creative artist -another theme-is driven by demons and lays bare his soul.We also get the interplay and contrast between cinematic space and theatrical space.Bergman came from a theatrical tradition and utilises it with his use of light and shadow and long-shot.With cinematic space he moves right up close or people move towards the camera like Anderson.Albert's close ups show him in all his sweaty suffering.But he is like the theatre director a tyrant and they both keep their shows on the road. But the theatre folk look down their noses at the circus folk at the bottom of the pecking order.This circus is not Felliniesque,but more like one of the lower circles of hell.As Bergman said in praise of this film and why he likes it: it is wild,but never loses control.This came after Summer with Monika and before Smiles of a Summer's Night and The 7th Seal. Bergman proves his genius.

Technoguy

This early Bergman film is the potent visual seed from which all his later (greater) films grow.To see it is to see them before they had been articulated and flowered. All the acting in this superb film is first rate: Anne (Anderson)dripping with sensuality but with a profound saving innocence.Albert(Gronberg) driven as the circus director by anger and humiliation.And Frost(Eckman) the clown to end all clowns,who we see at the beginning in an expressionistic flash-back shot in stark sunlight of unimmaginable horror in long off crowd shots or in close-ups comparable to Christ carrying his cross(his partnerAlma). We are in a travelling circus trekking across the country to its next town.This town is where Albert's wife lives with his children and he's going to see them.She is now successful and he wants to leave his younger mistress and the circus and settle down in security and peace.Anne fears him returning to his wife and she cuckolds him with a sleazy theatrical cad.Bergman's vision of the sexual-emotional battle between the sexes is particulary well realized,the hoops we all(yes us) have to jump through to bond through humiliation and desire and the need for security. However the creative artist -another theme-is driven by demons and lays bare his soul.We also get the interplay and contrast between cinematic space and theatrical space.Bergman came from a theatrical tradition and utilises it with his use of light and shadow and long-shot.With cinematic space he moves right up close or people move towards the camera like Anderson.Albert's close ups show him in all his sweaty suffering.But he is like the theatre director a tyrant and they both keep their shows on the road. But the theatre folk look down their noses at the circus folk at the bottom of the pecking order.This circus is not Felliniesque,but more like one of the lower circles of hell.As Bergman said in praise of this film and why he likes it: it is wild,but never loses control.This came after Summer with Monika and before Smiles of a Summer's Night and The 7th Seal. Bergman proves his genius.