This was the first subtitled film i ever saw; back in 1977 or 78 i think it was. I remember watching on BBC2 till about 2 in the morning and teeing my dad off (cus he needed me to go to bed for some reason)
It obviously made a big impression; soon after I was off to Birmingham Arts Centre to see films by Werner Herzog and Ingmar Bergman et al. I'd realized there was a wonderful world of film out there that actually included more of the world than that giving by yer usual English speaking fodder. And that world was complex, as complex as i felt i wanted to be. And it felt like i was joining a culture of "culture" - watching these obscure cult art house films of the 70's. A vital, and necessary, part of my "sentimental" education these cult films were.
So would this film be living up to my expectations 30+ years on? Yes it would. It did. I was pulled right in, was there as my younger self once again feeling absorbed into the cultural milieu of late 19th century boho intellectuals; various artists, writers, poets, philosophers, all agonizing and dying in their 30's and 40's of consumptive angst etc.
The most angsty and agonized of them all of course is Edvard. Has trouble with the ladies. Falling in love with liberal proto-feminists who mostly want a bit of extra-marital. A gamut of repressed feelings; which have to get released onto canvas, this inner tumult expressed as paint.
It was all marvelous meaty melancholy for my 19 year old inexperienced untutored self to feast on, be indulged by. The unfulfilled sexual desire, the emotional turmoil, echoing, exaggerating, expressing, what lay latently aching but unexpressed inside me. I was bedazzled, kind of bewildered, probably lost inside this sensually poeticized found world. Mesmerized.
Ok. I'm a more sophisticated "critic" of films 30 years on. Less inclined to be bedazzled. All that unfulfilled sexual desire and emotional turmoil has settled own, evened out, become less achingly significant. So this film doesn't have quite the import or impact of back then. And it does go on a bit. And the fast free- associative juxtapositions of the editing, which for an hour had felt fluid with felt lived life, get to feel - on occasion - tiringly repetitive.
Still, what an enriching and engrossing film to have seen all those years ago. No wonder my immature impressionable self was so impressed.