In the Presence of a Clown
Time Out saysAhlstedt reprises his role as great-uncle Carl from Fanny and Alexander and Best Intentions in this arresting drama. Resident in a sunny mental ward circa 1925, Carl is surrounded by premonitions of death, from the gramophone playing Schubert's Winterreise, to his hallucinatory visions of a sinister, sexually forthright, white-clad female clown named Rigmor (as in rigor mortis). Despite his situation and his record of psychotic rage, Carl is full of grand plans, and surprisingly proceeds to mount his own version of sound cinema by having actors speak the dialogue mouthed by characters in the silent film he has made. Not everything goes to plan, but like the great last works of Schubert, it's a striking instance of the redemptive power of art in the face of mortality, something the aging Bergman must have been feeling too. By turns bleak, bawdy, touching and wittily inventive, clearly a major Bergman piece, TV origins notwithstanding.