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FACE TO FACE (ANSIKTE MOT ANSIKTE) (director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer: Sven Nykvist; editor: Siv Lundgren; cast: Liv Ullmann (Dr. Jenny Isaksson), Erland Josephson (Dr. Tomas Jacobi), Aino Taube (The Grandmother), Gunnar Björnstrand (The Grandfather), Kristina Adolphson (Nurse Veronica), Marianne Aminoff (Jenny’s mother), Gösta Ekman (Mikael Strömberg), Helene Friberg (Anna, Jenny’s daughter), Ulf Johansson (Helmuth Wankel), Sven Lindberg (Jenny’s husband Eric), Birger Malmsten (Rapist), Sif Ruud (Elisabeth Wankel ), Göran Stangertz (Rapist), Kari Sylwan (Maria); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ingmar Bergman/Lars-Owe Carlberg; Olive Films; 1976-Sweden-in Swedish with English subtitles)
“Suffocating psychodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ingmar Bergman (“The Seventh Seal”/”Wild Strawberries”/”Scenes From A Marriage”) directs a pretentious art film seeped in a suffocating psychodrama. It’s about a successful shrink going through a nervous breakdown and recovering by beginning to understand her dreams. It lacks intimacy or much edification to mental illness in its relentless pursuit of getting the clinical details right. Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann intensely plays the shrink tormented by bitter memories of her past. It originated as a four-part Swedish TV mini-series.

While during the summer her shrink hubby (Sven Lindberg) and daughter (Helene Friberg) are away for two months in Chicago, as hubby is attending a psychology conference, Dr. Jenny Isaksson (Liv Ullmann) moves back into her family home with her elderly grandparents (Marianne Aminoff & Gunnar Björnstrand) and the familiar surroundings bring back bad memories from the past. To find some relief from her anxiety attacks, Jenny begins an affair with a visiting clleague, Dr. Tomas Jacobi (Erland Josephson), a womanizer, whose unresponsive psychotic relative Maria (Kari Sylwan) is her patient. The cold-hearted affair only makes Jenny feel worse, as she attempts suicide. While treated for her neuroses, she must deal with her ongoing hallucinations and fragile mental state as she struggles to reverse her adverse mental health with the help of the saintly nurse Veronica (Kristina Adolphson).

The downbeat drama was a heavy watch, and its languorous look at the dark side of the psyche gets under the skin but serves no other purpose that I can see than point out how depressing life can be when there are no escapes from reality. Recommended only for the strong performance by Ullmann, of a damsel under mental duress.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”