Amongst Bergman's better - and most underrated - movies
27 August 2010
Many of Ingmar Bergman's movies touch on navel gazing - often featuring characters "breaking the fourth wall". We're expected to look at the character's face and glean the depth of their despair through this device. Sadly, as in 'Summer With Monica', 'Persona', 'Wild Strawberries' et al, this leads to some turgid movies.

Yet a batch of Bergman's movies are... well... movies. 'Virgin Spring' is one. Its focus is on telling a story, while subtly developing the characters. And, of course, there's 'The Seventh Seal" too. Another story led one, and great on the excesses of religion, death, hope.

'From The Life of Marionettes' is somewhere between the two styles of Bergman, but enough of the focus is on the story that I'd put this up with some of his movies that really did it for me. 'Marionettes' begins with the murder and rape of a woman... throwing you straight in at the deep-end. The scene is in Technicolor to heighten the impact. Much of the rest of the movie then switches to black and white flashbacks and flashforwards that cover the reasons behind - and the aftermath of - the murder.

The movie does come across as cold and clinical. It's so precise in its form, with lingering shots and a tendency toward tableau middle and long shots, that it is a hard movie to get excited by. But, that's probably just the point of it. Even though you feel like you're gently led by the hand through the movie, the story and characters are strong enough that you let yourself be. Well, mostly. I felt a little irritated by 10 or 20 minutes in the middle section, and I felt a couple of the scenes repeated themselves to beat us with a certain viewpoint.

But it works. 'From The Life of Marionettes' succeeds in achieving a hard thing - seeing into the mind of an insane man. And while it's not a fun watch, it's a very interesting one.
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