Bergman's first earnest attempt to grapple with the question of theatricality in cinema. It retells the key incidents in the life of Don Juan, but its account of the seducer's shallow bravado and inner angst and his final despatch to hell is like Fellini's Casanova to the power of ten: a 'comedy' from which the laughs have all been drained. It's mounted as an overtly theatrical performance throughout: the episodes are introduced by Bergman veteran Björnstrand, who lectures the audience on what they're seeing and instructs them to view it as comedy. The episodes themselves are highly stylised, with (non-musical) hints of Don Giovanni foreshadowing Bergman's declared passion for Mozart opera. The dominant impression, though, as in so many early Bergman movies, is of a deep pessimism that is imposed rather than felt as necessary or productive.
Cast and crew