From the Life of the Marionettes (TV Movie 1980) Poster

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Underrated Bergman
zetes16 August 2002
Bergman made this film in Germany, while in exile from Sweden for tax-related reasons. It's a dark and disturbing psychological portrait of a man, Peter, who murders a prostitute in the opening scene. The film moves back and forth in time, using title cards to establish the setting in time, trying to explain Peter's troubles. It's reminiscent of Scenes from a Marriage, as Peter has problems relating to his wife, Katarina. A few weeks before the murder, he started having fantasies and dreams about murdering her. The prologue, depicting the murder (or, more precisely, the moments before the murder) and the epilogue (Peter in prison) are filmed in color, but everything else is in black and white. The composition is generally not showy, but there is an amazingly filmed dream sequence, the film's centerpiece. The script is generally brilliant, very observant. The only thing I felt was a little underdeveloped was the homosexual character, Tim, and Peter's supposed latent homosexuality, which the psychoanalyst character describes near the end. I wasn't quite sure what to make of that material. 9/10.
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Peter's got this problem
bob99821 February 2004
Bergman's working with a very restricted palette here, as he did with The Rite or Winter Light. The romantic, funny touches you expect from him are missing. Peter's mind is crumbling; he's a modern Othello obsessed with his wife's fidelity amid the tasteful furniture of their elegant home. All the action is seen through the distorting lens of Peter's madness. Why would his wife say, in front of strangers, that she has to get drunk to steady her nerves at her mother-in-law's place? This is the disturbed mind at work.

The acting is fine. Robert Atzorn and Walter Schmidinger do very well as, essentially, two sides of the same coin (the stodgy businessman and the gay fashion designer). Christina Buchegger is wonderful as Katharina, the wife; her attempts to win out over Peter's psychosis give the film what drama it has.
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Aus dem Leben der Marionetten: A Cornucopia of Pleasing Visuals
imagiking8 January 2011
Despite having seen the best part of Höstsonaten, Bergman's film immediately prior to Aus dem Leben der Marionetten, I never completed the viewing experience. Thus, this ranks itself as my very first Bergman, something I'd been rather looking forward to for quite some time.

Beginning with a surprising scene in which a well dressed man strangles a prostitute, Aus dem Leben der Marionetten follows this event up by examining the events before and after it, hopping through a time frame of two to three months. Through the conversations which precede and follow this catastrophe—as the film's intertitles elect to label it—we learn gradually more about the reasons and the people behind it.

I have a very deep proclivity toward non-English films playing late at night on television, particularly those in German—simply because I'm a student thereof. In the fleeting moments between realising such a film directed by the acclaimed Bergman—of whom I regrettably knew rather little—was about to grace my screen and its beginning, I was somewhat disenchanted to learn that this is not considered amongst his greatest. Nevertheless, I happily sat back to watch the potential magic unfold. The opening scene of murder is a strange one, the severity of the violence neither understood by its recipient or indeed by us; verily, it is suggested that not even the assailant understands what he is doing. Thereafter, an intriguing thing happens: the colour drains from the film, turning the previous rich reds to a dull monochrome. This effect is fascinating, inviting us to ruminate upon its purpose more than beginning in black and white would have done. The film follows this up with a non-chronological narrative progression, ducking from past to future—considering the murder the present, of course. Most of these scenes take the form of intimate conversations or extended monological musings, discussing in a vague manner many aspects of life. These are beautifully shot, a scene in which a homosexual man addressing the killer's wife slowly comes to regard himself in the mirror completely entrancing and surprisingly tender. Noteworthy too are the dream sequences—most rife in the film's middle section—dazzlingly bright and beautifully narrated. These exhibit a visual flair as inherently important to an understanding of the film as any dialogue. The film is both visually and thematically interesting, examining through both the factors that drive ordinary people to brutal actions. Somewhat of a recondite piece, it is the kind of film that lingers with you, returning to your mind a number of times after viewing. The performances, particularly that of Martin Benrath—in the role of the aforementioned gentleman—are nothing short of arresting.

Containing a cornucopia of pleasing visuals and highly effective metaphors—the importance of mirrors springs to mind—Aus dem Leben der Marionetten is a voluptuous treatise on life and love; repression and expression; individuality and relationships. Slow moving, but completely involving, if this is a lesser Bergman, I can't wait to see how he could improve upon it.
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Angst is the human condition
ferdinand19323 October 2009
This is totally engaging but its almost just theater: the long scenes, still camera, monologues, exposition of internal psycho-drama and chapters that structure the entire film.

But most of all its the interest and compassion contained in the human face and voice that Bergman makes central. That had been part of Bergman's work for a long time, just look at "Through a Glass Darkly". The characters are moving through space but not able to connect with each other at all, they simulate free will but they are not able to live it.

Having said all of the above the photography and set ups are occasionally sublime, the sort of thing that was the essence of cinema, but not so any more.
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Underrated and under-known
runamokprods22 May 2012
A complex dissection of a murder and a murderer, told by jumping back and forth in time, before and after the event, A deeply disturbing portrait of a man and a society so cut off from feeling that violence seems almost inevitable.

While more divided in public reaction then some of Bergman's most beloved works, I think this edgy, bold, uncomfortable film ranks close to some of his best work. While there are moments of pretension, there's also a lot of human and psychological complexity (and wonderful acting) in this bleak exploration of how near murder and madness lie to any of us.
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another Bergman experiment, lots of interesting psychological bits
Quinoa19841 July 2006
Ingmar Bergman's From the Life of the Marionettes, his last film done while in exile during the late 70's, hearkens back to his experimental period in the mid to late 60's. Here he's trying for a deconstructive way to get inside the mind of his subjects, most notably the character of Peter Egermann. The fatal flaw of the film, however, is also something that adds an unusual kind of connection to the material for a Bergman film. It's erratic in its narrative as the director tests himself with jumping around from different times around a single event. But unlike how this has been done by the likes of Tarantino, this is meant not really as a useful story trick, but to try to get different perspectives and acute angles of the subject at hand. The film doesn't reach its greatness for the same reason that it does keep itself watchable- this is very murky, depressing times, loaded with dialog that may or may not go ways to help explain or give some interest in the supporting/main characters, and some startling, if dated, surreal experiences.

It's also a little strange that Bergman decided to connect these characters, however loosely, to the couple in the first episode of the Scenes From a Marriage series, where Peter and Katarina (then played by Jan Maljsmo and Bibi Andersson) were the volatile arguers who juxtaposed the main focus of the film. Here, portrayed by Robert Atzorn and Christine Buchegger, are not only not as spot-on as the former actors (though they are still quite good and splendid in some scenes), the couple is picked under Bergman's psychological microscope where the relationship is very strained and a fatalistic. The opening scene is definitely a mind-blower, with an intensity and harsh sexual edge that is uncommon to Bergman's films (one of his best openings to be sure). Indeed, one of the nice twists, a little shocking at first and then intriguing, is how the filmmaker lets out inhibitions and shows the more explicit images of nudity and the sensual, as well as rock and disco music.

Along with a fragmented approach to the storytelling, where infidelities, insecurities, shame, depression, and outright rage and confusion are brought out in segments that range from the convincing to missing the mark. In a way, maybe Bergman's aims are lowered this time in exile, and he delves more into a doomed personality with visual surprise. Sven Nyvkist, as usual, is still very good with what he does in the frame, especially as this is 90% black and white (with a strange blue tint at times), and his services come into great use in a visual detailing of a dream involving Peter and Katarina naked in a wide, white space. It's maybe the best sequence in the film. In experimenting with the dramatic interpretations, it's not as successful, and some of the supporting actors aren't as good as the leads (a scene with one of the actors talking into a mirror is one of my least favorite scenes Bergman's ever wrote/directed).

Its obscurity is not, therefore, that staggering to see. But it is a good and occasionally spine-tingling character study, and if you are into the filmmaker's work already it's a find that might prove better or more fulfilling. 7.5/10
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Excellent screenwriter-filmaker... MR. BERGMAN
erick_castaway2 January 2002
The best thing about this movie, is not only it's photography, nor it's characters. It's the best story telling ever, using the flash forward - flash back resource it keeps your mind trying to put together this extraordinary puzzle. Bergman did this before Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. And keeps it in an intimate level, wanders in the dark pits of human sexuality and feelings. So... watch the film with open mind.
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Really intriguing and undervalued
TheLittleSongbird3 January 2013
Perhaps I'm biased as I am a great admirer of Ingmar Bergman, but I found myself both fascinated and impressed by From the Life of the Marionettes. Excepting All These Women, the only film(of those I've seen, which is a little over two-thirds) that I didn't care for, Bergman's films have ranged to solid to outstanding. From the Life of the Marionettes is not one his very finest, but it is one of the films of his that is close to outstanding. Apart from the I agree underdeveloped homosexual subplot, there is very little of the film to criticise. The production values could be seen as stark, but still sublime and even haunting and shot beautifully. Bergman directs superbly with his usual control and discipline, while the speeches are thoughtful and the structure consisting of drama, documentary, character study, flashback and dream sequences is constantly attention-grabbing and I didn't find myself confused by it. The characters could be seen as cold, but purposefully and there is the trademark compelling realism of Bergman's films here. There aren't Sweden's finest ever actors on board, but the acting is still very good. All in all, very undervalued Bergman with lots of interest value. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Surprisingly good, considering the criticism it received on release
contact_scott13 January 2003
A short comment - enjoyed this and it is up to the usual Bergmann standards. As with many of his other films sticking with some of the difficult opening scenes rewards the viewer later with a thought provoking account of one man's depression leading to violence and murder. In many ways Bergman is the jacques costeau of the film world, exploring the deep seas and bringing up to the surface what lies below!
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Amongst Bergman's better - and most underrated - movies
MurderSlimPress27 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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Lots to think about and compulsive watching
ian_harris7 May 2003
Bergman was on top form writing this piece - there's lots to think about. What motivates a respectable man, whose mental state indicates only a small risk of self-harm, to undertake such a violent and frenzied crime? Do the ulterior motives and actions of those around him (wife, shrink, wife's business partner...)deliberately or unwittingly trigger the crime - or indeed are those sub-plots entirely incidental to the central event? These questions are not answered - they are raised and illuminated.

This is not Bergman's greatest piece of cinema - the mixture of documentary, drama and flashback can be a little disorienting - but the argument of the film drives on relentlessly and it is compulsive watching. Well worth seeing.
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Static, talky, clinical, bizarre, explicit, challenging - and very well acted
gridoon202010 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Thematically "From The Lives Of The Marionettes" is not far away from American horror films of the period, but stylistically it is quite different. I liked the back-and-forth-in-time narrative structure, but for all the insights we get into the psyche of the central character, when the movie is over we still don't really know why he did what he did. The best part is the fetishistic dream sequence; the worst are the two consecutive endless rants of the character named Tim. **1/2 out of 4.
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A Dark and Disturbing Psychological Movie
claudio_carvalho31 July 2004
The story begins in colors with the violent murder of a prostitute followed by necrophilism by Peter Egermann (Robert Atzorn). Through the investigation, in black & white, the investigator interviews Peter's wife, the beautiful designer Katarina Egermann (Christine Buchegger), his doctor, his mother and some friends, and realizes that Peter is an unsecured man, who has never controlled his own life. His doctor's report indicates that Peter had a breakdown. In the colored epilog, Peter is in his cell, in a mental institution, observed by his wife and his nurse. This dark and disturbing psychological movie is very depressive. I am a fan of Ingmar Bergman, the interpretations and direction are excellent, as usual, but I did not like this complex story. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): `Da Vida das Marionetes ` (`From the Life of the Marionettes')
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psychiatry in action
mjneu5921 November 2010
Ingmar Bergman's cold, clinical case study explores the psycho-sexual inhibitions of a Swedish man unable to trust his wife but unwilling to leave her, leading him finally to murder and then rape a young prostitute. The verbally explicit drama is challenging and controversial but also impersonal and uninvolving, in large part because of Bergman's deliberately detached viewpoint and the unfortunate addition (on the old VHS print I saw, at least) of substandard English overdubbing. The implied criticism of Freudian analysis is worth noting (if only because it's more interesting than the facts in the case itself), but the film hardly qualifies as entertainment, except perhaps for highbrow viewers needing strong food for thought.
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A mish-mash of Bergman's previous works.
Amyth477 August 2019
My Rating : 6/10

Well - I will admit that Bergman is one of the greatest filmmakers and auteurs of all time but he has made some terrible movies in his 60+ filmography when he tries to do something a little too arts-y and highbrow-ish. This is certainly one of them.

The jumbled chronology and overly pretentious dialogues makes for a stupid film for the pretentious arthouse bourgeoisie. I liked the Freudian influences but other than that it is a re-working of his previous iconic works, Persona etc

Watch at your own risk. It is rather slow-paced.
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Hitchcoc18 March 2015
The story begins with the murder of a prostitute by a man who can find no happiness. He sees a psychiatrist who is more interested in bedding his wife than helping him. The man is hopelessly unhappy. The movie tries to understand his emotions and motivations but it is all bottled up inside him. His relationship to his wife is pure torment. The spar with one another. She gets pleasure out embarrassing him and then tries to make up. He is attached to his mother in a very Freudian way. We are put through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards (is there such a thing) all scripted around the murder. It's hard to feel any compassion for the figures in this drama. Bergman could be so cynical about the human condition and this film, little known, carries on that direction. I guess, Marionettes have no personal will but are pulled by the strings of their indifferent masters. This film is not for the faint of heart.
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Not enough good moments for 100 minutes
Horst_In_Translation13 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Aus dem Leben der Marionetten" ("From the Life of Marionettes) is a German 100-minute movie from over 35 years ago and I believe this is the only film that renowned Swedish writer and director Ingmar Bergman made in German. Lead actor is Robert Atzorn and I know him. However, I am not familiar with late lead actress Christine Buchegger. I see this film here is a spin-off from another work by Bergman. That one was in Swedish though. We watch a couple in their dysfunctional marriage and find out why the husband committed a terrible crime. This basically happens entirely via flashbacks to the days and hours before the crime. I guess Bergman wanted to shock the audience right away and to keep them interested, he included the scene right at the beginning. He probably knew that a chronological order would bore most of the audience as the story that leads to the crime is simply not interesting enough unfortunately.

If this is standard Bergman, then I have to say I am not really interested. He had many good actors at his disposal, yet didn't manage to construct a well-thought-out film around them, even if the acting was fine for the most part. In terms of a similar plot, I definitely prefer Rainer Werner Fassbinder's amok-related movie. A much more rewarding watch because he, unlike Bergman, does not lose himself in pretentious dialogue and style over substance for a big part of the movie. Honestly, I quickly lost interest in the ways the couple constantly humiliates each other and also in the question why he actually did what he did. Well.. I could even say it as it happens right away in the film, so it wouldn't even be a spoiler, would it? Oh well, guess I won't Check for yourself. Or don't because you would not be missing much. I cannot recommend "Aus dem Leben der Marionetten". Thumbs down.
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A rare misfire made during Bergman's exile period
davidmvining21 November 2019
I was confused pretty much through this whole movie. Not because I couldn't figure out what was going on in front of me, but because I couldn't figure out how all of these disparate pieces were supposed to come together.

Made during Bergman's self-imposed exile to Germany due to tax issues in his native Sweden, From the Life of the Marionettes is a jumble of a movie that keeps swirling around a point without ever quite getting to one. I think the central problem is that the human impulse, that of a need to commit violence, doesn't seem to be something that Bergman has any real experience with. Maybe I'm wrong, and he was a violent to one (or several) of his wives, but based purely on this, I'd say no.

The story begins with the murder of a prostitute by a man. What follows is a series of chapters (like how Bergman assembled Scenes from a Marriage and Saraband) but in non-linear order, which, I don't think, ends up working particularly well. We find out about the man, a placid middle-aged and middle-class man with a wife and no children who harbors fantasies of murdering his spouse. His reasons seem to have something to do with sex with references to unexplainable urges of murder and a description of a dream where his wife humiliates him for lack of sexual ability. Maybe this could provide his motivation, but it's a surprisingly small part of the movie. There's a middle section where the wife's partner, a gay man, talks about his own troubles with attraction and aging.

The movie is an odd combination of smart and bad at the same time. Just summarizing what happens in the film papers over my resistance to the film, because it "reads" better than it actually plays. There's intelligence to how different elements come into the film, fall out, and then return, but the overall package is shockingly unwieldy and opaque. At the same time, there are wonderfully striking images throughout, in particular around the dream sequence (Bergman lost none of his ability with lensing and his long time collaborator, DP Sven Nykvist came with him to Germany to continue working with the director).

I guess the problem is that I just found the order of information revealed to be frustrating at best and the actual penetration into the murderer's actions and mindset to be unconvincing.
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Making Murder Boring
BNester25 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens with the murder of a prostitute by Peter, a man in a suit. What follows are scenes of Peter and his family and acquaintances that take place around the time of the "catastrophe" (as it's called in the titles), and of the Police interrogation.

The second scene shows Peter's shifty-looking psychiatrist explaining that Peter was wealthy, intelligent, normal, happily married, and gave no hint of the impending murder. We soon learn that the psychiatrist is unethical and also lying. The rest of the film shows just how much he lied. Perhaps Bergman is trying to get us to think that Peter had no choice in his actions, given the circumstances of his life; that he was, in effect, a marionette.

The film takes place in Germany, with German-speaking actors. Although filmed by Sven Nykvist, Bergman's rightly-famous cinematographer, in his usual, wonderfully-lighted close-ups, I didn't feel the intimacy that we usually get with Bergman's Swedish films. Perhaps the German actors' faces lack the expressiveness of the Swedes, or maybe Bergman simply wanted them to seem colder and more aloof.

The characters spend long minutes in monologues in single takes. It gets boring. Instead of caring about what they have to say, I found myself marveling at the actors' powers of memorization.

The film is livened up by many long nude sequences, more than you usually see in a non-pornographic film, but these are not enough to make up for its long boring bits.

"From the Life of the Marionettes" had seven (!) producers, among them Bergman himself and also Ingrid Bergman.
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