A very theatrical piece (literally), made for Swedish television, this
is essentially a 3 character play, all taking place on stage after a
rehearsal of Strindberg's 'Dream Play'.
Erland Josephson - wonderful as always - is the most blatant stand in
for Bergman himself in any of Bergman's films. He plays an aging
director examining his art, his career, and mostly how those interacted
with his relationships, through dialogues with two actresses; a younger
played by Lena Olin, and an older played by Ingrid Thulin. Thulin plays
Olin's now dead mother, who once played the same role the younger woman
is now working on for the director.
What is fantasy, dream or reality stays intentionally muddy. A lot of
the ideas here are interesting and complex, but it does stay (for me)
very much a play of concept and intellectual philosophical exploration,
without a lot emotion.
My favorite of Bergman's works are those (Like Fanny and Alexander,
Scenes From a Marriage, Cries and Whisper, Sarabande, etc.) that
combine Bergman's intellectual rigor with human emotion,
But 'After the Rehearsal' is still an admirable exploration of its
themes, and I wouldn't mind returning to it yet again. As is almost always
the case with Bergman, reactions are very individual, and there are
many who think this is one of his masterpieces.