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BRINK OF LIFE (Nära livet) (aka: SO CLOSE TO LIFE) (director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; screenwriter: two shorts stories “Det vänliga, värdiga” and “Det orubbliga” by Ulla Isaksson/Ulla Isaksson; cinematographer: Max Wilén; editor: Carl-Olov Skeppstedt; music: Richard Dybeck; cast: Eva Dahlbeck (Stina Andersson), Ingrid Thulin (Cecilia Ellius), Bibi Andersson (Hjördis Petterson), Barbro Hiort af Ornäs (Nurse Brita), Erland Josephson (Anders Ellius), Max von Sydow (Harry Andersson), Gunnar Sjöberg (Dr. Nordlander), Ann-Marie Gyllenspetz (Counsellor Gran, Assistant Social Worker), Inga Landgré (Greta Ellius); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gosta Hammerback; Ajay Film Company; 1958-Sweden-in Swedish with English subtitles)
“Set in a Stockholm maternity ward and covers the mental and physical pains of three expecting mothers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-acted but glum minor austere drama directed by Ingmar Bergman (“Wild Strawberries”/”Cries and Whispers”/”Winter Light “) and filmed like a documentary. It’s set in a Stockholm maternity ward and covers the mental and physical pains of three expecting mothers, who debate among themselves whether each should keep their child. It’s taken from two shorts stories, “Det vänliga, värdiga” and “Det orubbliga,” by Ulla Isaksson; she cowrote it with Bergman.

The Ingrid Thulin character has a miscarriage, which is symptomatic of her loveless marriage to Erland Josephson;therunawayteenager Bibi Andersson is not married and fears she’s not ready for the responsibility of bringing up a child on her own, so she naturally becomes the one to keep her baby after trying to abort it; Eva Dahlbeck is the most ready for a child as she gushes with joy in her happy marriage and wants one, but loses it.

It’s a cold clinical film that sticks close to the depressing maternity ward and its intense life and death developments; the film can’t be faulted for keeping things realistic, nevertheless it’s a bummer and only worth seeing to watch the lead femmes all give heady performances.

The judges at Cannes dug the film, whereby Bergman snagged Best Director while Dahlbeck, Thulin, Andersson and Barbro Hiort af Ornäs won collectively for Best Actress. The latter played the sensitive nurse in the ward.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”