Ingmar Bergman is one of those classic and renowned directors that I have yet to fully form an opinion about, probably because I’ve only seen two of his films. I did enjoy them both, to varying degrees, so let’s give the old Bergman another go. Shame stars Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow (of course) in a film about a couple caught in the midst of a war, trying to live their life. The film explores many themes, including the title, but mostly follows along the two as they try to survive a world increasingly rough and intrusive upon them.
Bergman seems to be very fond of character studies. The Seventh Seal was a study of the theme of life through the characters, and Fanny and Alexander was a character study of the children and their family. Here, we have but a wife and husband trying to go on living as usual in the middle of a war torn country. But it’s not just the semblance of a plot that goes on here; Bergman is too fond of the material for that. Instead, he finds beauty in the smallest of moments; the film on occasion will stop what it’s doing to ponder many things, either the beauty of whatever is around at the time, or about life and its many wonders and misgivings. Bergman is a director who falls in love with his subject matter, and it comes across in his films very well.
This is a film that isn’t so much concerned with a plot as it is with the themes that it explores; the happenings that constitute a plotline are just there to further the film to that end. The film is very moody, and knows when to play its cards to maximum effect. The shift from theme to theme might be a little dizzying to a viewer too concentrated on the plot, but the film is very effective at what it does, and what it does is contemplate. If this sounds like your kind of film, give it a try and see if Bergman is the director for you. If not, it’s understandable, but don’t try and decry a film like this for not doing exactly what you want it to do.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10