Friday, July 20, 2007

Thirst (1949)

Another early work by Ingmar Bergman, Thirst has the distinct honor of being the first film in its illustrious director's career that could have been made by nobody else -- adaptation or no, this is a Bergman film, through and through. The tenuous, frustrated attempts at connection, the despairing spirituality and damaged sexuality, the crisp, grim poetry of the black and white compositions: It all comes together for the first time here in a way that would define much of it's director's subsequent work. This film, in particular, introduces a lot of material (a fateful train ride, a relentless heat wave, a lesbian subtext) that would inform The Silence (which I really, really need to see again). Thirst is a roundelay of emotional and sexual dissatisfaction that orbits around mentally fragile ex-dancer Rut and her husband Bertil. The dancer (the central character) is flighty, distractible and often childish, with a penchant for overindulgence in alcohol and mental cruelty; as such, her almost pathological inability to see beyond herself reflects in the various relationships Bergman shows us. There's a leering psychiatrist who wants his patient to admit that her whole life "has been one long mistake"; said patient later meets an old female classmate who attempts, very clumsily, to seduce her with bad results. The tension built up in the film's various threads erupt in a series of surreal climactic tableaux; the most striking of these (a chase down a smoke-and-fog-laden train corridor) seems informed by Jean Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher, which is an interesting reminder that Bergman's mise-en-scene often creeps closer to full-on Expressionism than many are willing to allow. Bertil proclaims relationships to be "a sea of tears and misunderstandings," which is as close to a thesis statement as you'll get from this film. The title implies a longing, a desire for something missing. On the evidence here, Bergman's characters will forever be parched.

Grade: B

3 Comments:

Blogger Kza said...

But didn't you just love when the characters would put the vampire teeth in their mouths and their eyes would glow red?

Oh wait, never mind.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

LOL! Y'know, I've always kinda wanted to see Thirst with Vampires and No Swedish Angst ever since stumbling across an unexpectedly positive review of it years ago in Maltin's guide. Is it really worth it?

12:41 AM  
Blogger Kza said...

I haven't seen it since I saw it on HBO around '80 or '81, when I was 8 or 9. It freaked me out at the time, primarily because it was a paranoid "they're out to get you"-style flick, and that always works on me. I suspect nowadays I'd find it arty and slow, but who knows.

5:54 PM  

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