The final part of Bergman's trilogy (after Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light) is a bleak and disturbing study of loneliness, love and obsessive desire. Sisters Ester (Thulin) and Anna (Lindblom), together with the latter's young son, book into a vast but virtually empty hotel - the only other guests are a troupe of dwarf entertainers - in a country seemingly occupied or threatened by war. Once again exploring the conflicts between physicality and spirituality, Bergman candidly portrays Ester's latent lesbian desire for her sister, as well as Anna's own compulsive sexuality (she picks up a waiter and brings him back to the hotel). Despite the overt eroticism, the sisters' craving for emotional warmth is filmed in a cold, objective style; in this way, Bergman's severe symbolism emphasises both the seeming impossibility of, and the absolute necessity for, human tenderness in a Godless world.
Cast and crew