The Passion of Anna (En Passion) | Director: Ingmar Bergman | Release Year: 1969
Rating: R | Run Time: 1hr 41min
So, I felt the need to take a bit of a departure from my recent horror film reviews and I figured what a better time to review a foreign film on Netflix? I’ve always been an Ingmar Bergman fan (but who isn’t, really?) and The Passion of Anna is the only of his on Netflix streaming (much to my chagrin).
The Passion of Anna explores isolation and tragedy on a deeply personal level. The close-ups reflect Bergman’s choice to analyze his tormented characters intimately. Overall the film is rather drab and colorless, making Bergman’s slight use of color saturation (notably red) highly crucial. Not surprisingly, I saw many parallels between this film and Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice.
This is a long review, so I tried to break it up in easy to read sections.
The most isolated, though not necessarily detached, character is Andreas Winkelman (Max von Sydow), a recent divorcee who moves to a small island to escape the confines of his previous life. Andreas lives a rather plain existence in a small cottage surrounded by books. When Andreas meets the crippled Anna (Liv Ullman), she asks to use his phone. After eavesdropping on her conversation and searching the handbag she accidentally left on his desk, Andreas begins to form a romantic interest in Anna.
After returning Anna’s handbag, Andreas is invited to dinner with Anna and her married housemates, Elis (Erland Josephson) and Eva Vergerus (Bibi Andersson). In an odd twist, Andreas ends up having an affair with Eva before eventually falling in love with Anna. Despite the focal point being between Andreas and Anna, Andreas’ relationship with Eva felt more “real” in the traditional sense.
Andreas and Anna’s relationship eventually founders when past demons come to light. Their relationship is paralleled against the needless and brutal killings of the island’s animals. The islanders suspect that a friend of Andreas’, a loner who once resided in a mental hospital, is the culprit. But it’s easy to speculate that this “mad man” is actually Anna. Though this speculation is never confirmed or denied, it is remotely alluded to through her slightly unhinged actions and reactions.
Parallels to Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski
There are so many intricate intersections between The Passion of Anna, Kieslowski’s Blue, and Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, that it would warrant an excellent analysis, one which deserves much more detail than I will provide here. Anna who lost her child and husband in a terrible accident parallels Julie’s (Blue) plight, who also lost her child and husband in a car accident. Andreas doesn’t seek clarity as explicitly as Alexander in The Sacrifice, but they both eventually find it, only to realize this “clarity” leads to more questions. Andreas’ pacing on the side of the road at the end of The Passion of Anna, parallels the frantic running of Alexander as his house burns down. The milk motif, symbolism of nature, and treatment of large themes through the personal lives of their characters are only a few of the similarities between this trio of masterpieces.
Deconstruction in The Passion of Anna
My Bergman viewing is seriously lacking, as I’ve only actually seen a handful of his films. While you can see aspects of the deconstruction philosophy in Bergman’s other films, The Passion of Anna is the first I’ve seen that actively deconstructs the plot and characters. It’s quite a jarring experience to see the characters we’ve formed a relationship with, suddenly cease to be their character selves by turning to the camera to expose the onscreen fraud. In between the narrative scenes, the actors explain a la documentary-style what they believe are their characters’ motives, thoughts, and feelings.
This deconstruction is an interesting approach to take in filmmaking, and it’s certainly not something that can be easily accomplished without coming off as tacky or overly pretentious. After the first interview with von Sydow, the interviews were much easier to swallow as I found myself expecting them. A less attentive director would certainly fail at throwing such an avant-garde aspect into an otherwise typical narrative film, but Bergman is no hack. These interviews add a depth and intensity that I appreciated more than I expected.
Have you seen this one? I would really love some more feedback. There’s so much to discuss in all of Bergman’s films, but I haven’t seen much discussion on this particular film.