Efter repetitionen (1984)


AFTER THE REHEARSAL (Efter repetitionen)

(director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer: Sven Nykvist; editor: Sylvia Ingemarsson; cast: Erland Josephson (Henrik Vogler), Ingrid Thulin (Rakel Egerman), Lena Olin (Anna Egerman), Nadja Palmstjerna-Weiss (Anna Egerman, younger), Bertil Guve (Henrik Vogler, younger); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jörn Donner; Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment; 1984-Sweden-Swedish with English subtitles)


“The director’s mea culpa for choosing his art over his family life.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A talky theatrical piece made for Swedish TV, that is stage-bound. This minor Ingmar Bergman (“Winter Light”/”Fanny and Alexander”/”Saraband”) work pretends to have something vital to say about the touchy relationships between the sexes, but mainly rehashes all the director’s previous familiar arguments about the exasperation of love. What it turns out to be is the director’s mea culpa for choosing his art over his family life, as he looks back on the suffering he has caused those women around him and how he might have mistreated his actors. The semi-autobiographical film was promoted as Bergman’s farewell to cinema. In this one, a self-conscious Bergman through actor Erland Josephson, wonders aloud if the sacrifice was worth it. It’s a blatant philosophical tract that never quite works as drama, but has some mild interest for being so revealing, personal and modern in its outlook.

Stage director Henrik Volger (Erland Josephson) is the aging and weary alter ego Bergman figure putting on Strindberg’s Dream Play (his fifth production of ”The Dream Play”) when after the rehearsal he’s visited while sitting on a sofa of the stage set by one of his young stars, Anna Egerman (Lena Olin), an attractive actress whom he has surprisingly cast in the play as a lead. She is looking for her lost bracelet, but stays to chat with the director.

Later on the two will be briefly joined by Anna’s mother, Rakel (Ingrid Thulin); she’s an alcoholic has-been actress who once was Henrik’s lover. The unreliable once star actress is given a humiliating small bit part as merely a favor from the past, and doesn’t take too kindly to such poor treatment and tells us that she’s 46 and wants to again have an affair with the director. She will exit the stage set after bitterly attacking him for abandoning her.

The heart of the film has Henrik imagining what it would be like to have an affair with Anna, who reveals she has a crush on him. It leads to them acting out on the empty stage set a long sustained love scene together.

It runs its hands over the human condition like a meta-physician checking for imagined bumps and bruises, as if it were a Strindberg play reworked to fit Bergman’s agenda. Since everything is so fuzzy, the entire film has the possibility of being only Henrik’s dream. But either way, it still leaves you with the same thoughts ticking inside the five times married director’s inner being.