Saturday, April 13, 2019
Secrets of Women
Based on a story by Gun Grut, Kvinnors vantan (Secrets of Women or Waiting Women) is the story of a group of sisters-in-law who each tell each other stories about their husbands as they’re all set to return home during a summer holiday. Written for the screen and directed by Ingmar Bergman, the film is a reflective look into a group of women who all talk about their relationships as well as reveal about some of the drawbacks of marriage. Starring Anita Bjork, Eva Dahlbeck, Maj-Britt Nilsson, Birger Malmsten, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Karl-Arne Holmsten, Jarl Kulle, Aino Taube, and Hakan Westergren. Kvinnors vantan is a witty yet engaging film from Ingmar Bergman.
Four sisters-in-law are at their family summer home waiting for their respective husbands to arrive as three of them talk about their marriage in some revealing stories about certain aspects of their lives. It’s a film whose simple premise that is sort of told in a reflective narrative as these women are waiting for their husbands to arrive as they’re with the kids and others as they tell their stories to a young woman who is interested as she also has a lover she’s waiting for. Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay follows a simple structure where three of the five women in the living room tell their respective stories on their marriages.
The first story from Rakel (Anita Bjork) has her recalling an affair with a friend in Kaj (Jarl Kulle) while she is married to Eugen (Karl-Arne Holmsten) as it relates to his reaction about the affair. The second story from Marta (Maj-Britt Nilsson) is about how she met Eugen’s younger brother Martin (Birger Malmsten) that lead to a pregnancy while recalling the time she was about to give birth to their child without him present. The third and final story from Karin (Eva Dahlbeck) is about her marriage Fredrik (Gunnar Bjornstrand) on a night where they get stuck in an elevator that has them revealing so much to each other. It is told to Marta’s younger sister Maj (Gerd Andersson) who is hoping to run away with her lover Henrik (Bjorn Bjelfvenstam).
Bergman’s direction definitely has some elements of style in some of the compositions that he creates yet he maintains that air of intimacy into the direction as it is focused on a group of women telling stories to one another. Shot mainly in parts of Stockholm and Paris as well as the Swedish countryside where the main bulk of the story takes place. There are a few wide shots in some of the locations as well as this lavish scene at the Parisian night club that Marta goes to where she meets Martin that include shots of topless women. Much of Bergman’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots with the few wide shots used for stylistic reasons as the intimacy play into how characters are shot inside a room or inside an apartment.
There are also these moments where Bergman would have the camera linger on for a few minutes knowing when not to cut as it adds to the conversations and dramatic moments in the film with Karin’s story about being in an elevator with Fredrik being the funniest segment of them all. The rest of the film is dramatic with Rakel being the most serious of the three yet Bergman does keep an air of intrigue into the drama as well as raise questions into why the fourth sister-in-law in Annette (Aino Taube) hasn’t told her story. Overall, Bergman crafts an engrossing yet compelling film about a group of women waiting for their husbands to arrive at the summer home.
Cinematographer Gunnar Fischer does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with the usage of shadows and light for the scenes inside the elevator, the Parisian nightclub, and in some exterior scenes as it is one of the film’s highlights. Editor Oscar Rosander does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few stylish bits in rhythmic cuts for the humor and drama as well as some stylish superimposed dissolves for a montage scene in Marta’s story. Production designer Nils Svenwall does fantastic work with the look of the Parisian nightclub interiors as well as the look of the homes of the characters including the room where the women talk about their marriages.
Costume designer Barbro Sorman does terrific work with the dresses and clothes that the women wear that each play into their personalities. The sound work of Sven Hansen is superb for its natural approach to the sound as well as some of the raucous atmosphere of the clubs and the sound effects in the elevator. The film’s music by Erik Nordgren is wonderful for its orchestral score that include some woodwind-based pieces as well as some lush strings to play into the drama as well as bombastic music for the Parisian club scene.
The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Aino Taube as the fourth wife Annette who doesn’t have much to say, Hakan Westergren as Annette’s husband Paul who is eldest brother of the family, Bjorn Bjelfvenstam as Annette and Paul’s son Henrik who is also Maj’s lover, Gerd Andersson as Marta’s younger sister Maj who listens to the stories of her sister and her other sisters-in-law, and Jarl Kulle in a terrific performance as Rakel’s lover Kaj who is also a friend of her husband as he would play into some of the emotional waters of their marriage. Karl-Arne Holmsten is superb as Rakel’s husband Eugen as a man who is fragile as he would have a hard time coping with the flaws of his marriage to Rakel. Birger Malmsten is fantastic as Martin Lobelius as an artist who would meet and fall for Marta only to get her pregnant as he wouldn’t know about the existence of her child as well as cope with his own issues in being part of a revered family.
Gunnar Bjornstrand is excellent as Karin’s husband Fredrik as a man who always like to look at his best as he deals with his own shortcomings and neglect towards Karin once they get trapped in an elevator. Maj-Britt Nilsson is brilliant as Marta as a young woman married to Martin as she deals with how they met and how their relationship took a drastic turn due to their affair and what she had to deal with by herself. Eva Dahlbeck is amazing as Karin as Fredrik’s wife who reveals about secrets she has been keeping from her husband while trying to find ways to relate to him again despite the flaws in their marriage. Finally, there’s Anita Bjork in a radiant performance as Rakel as a woman in an affair with a longtime friend as she deals with its complications as well as the emotional chaos it would bring into her marriage.
Kvinnors vantan is a remarkable film from Ingmar Bergman. Featuring a great cast, a captivating script, gorgeous visuals, and themes of love, marriage, temptation, and desire. It’s a film that follow three stories of relationships told by three sisters-in-law as they wait for their husbands to arrive at the family summer home. In the end, Kvinnors vantan is a marvelous film from Ingmar Bergman.
Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams (1955 film) - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) – Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Magician (1958 film) - The Virgin Spring - The Devil's Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence (1963 film) - All These Women - Persona - (Stimulantia-Daniel) – Hour of the Wolf - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - The Passion of Anna - (The Touch) – Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) – Autumn Sonata - From the Life of the Marionettes - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) – Saraband
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