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Time Out says
Tue Oct 4 2005A minimalist monument to the rusted complacency, howling resentment, and stubborn devotion bred by a long entanglement, ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ (1973) is a virtual two-hander for the Bergman stalwarts Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, who reunited three decades later for what the 87-year-old director has declared his final film. Shot like its predecessor largely in merciless close-ups, the digital-video ‘Saraband’ is less a sequel than an expansive coda, beginning when Marianne (Ullmann) impulsively decides to visit her ex-husband, Johan (Josephson), after an estrangement of more than 30 years. Marianne at first appears to be our guide down a knotty memory lane, but not long after she arrives at Johan’s remote cottage, she becomes a sympathetic bystander to a newer, festering family psychodrama. Johan seethes with loathing for his doughy, hapless son, Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt), but he remains benevolent toward Henrik’s lissome kid, Karin (Julia Dufvenius). Father and daughter are penniless cellists boarding in Johan’s guest house, and the incestuous overtones of their bond, coupled with the camera’s lingering glances upon a photo of Karin’s dearly departed mother, only thicken the air of ingrown decay. Like ‘Scenes from a Marriage’, the new film is a study of diseased symbiosis that unfolds as a series of dialogues, the sparring rife with the brutal existential candour that is the lingua franca of Bergman’s cinema. ‘Saraband’ brings to mind another valedictory chamber piece – it’s as hermetically Bergmanesque as ‘Gertrud’ was hermetically Dreyeresque, a parlour-room theatre of emotional cruelty, with all exits barred by the past.