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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb sequel to "Scenes from a Marriage" exploring old age., 30 April 2007
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Amazon Customer (Bournemouth UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Ingmar Bergman's directed his final film and a sequel to the wonderful 1973 "Scenes from a Marriage" in 2002 aged 84.

"Saraband" stands alone as a drama but acquaintance with the earlier film brings out the full meaning and poignancy. Thirty years have past since Marianne (Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson) last met and on an impulse Marianne visits him.

Thirty years have passed dramatically, thirty years separate the making of the two films and the stars are thirty years older; "Scenes from a Marriage" is one of my all time great movies and the aging of the stars gives this film especial poignancy. The fine photography and Ingmar Bergman's belief that the most beautiful picture in the world is a close up of the human head against a plain background provides us with extreme close ups cruelly exposing the aging process.

Old age is at the heart of this film, looking back on what might have been, pragmatically acknowledging the present, the gulf between the old and the young, the need for the young to escape the influence of the old.

Ullman and Josephson reprise their roles superbly, and are joined by Johan's son from another marriage Henrik (Borge Ahlstedt) and his granddaughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius). Karin has developed a close bond with her father Henrik following her mothers death also Henrik is teaching her the cello. This obsessive relationship is fascinating, contrasting Henrik's dual personality as devoted, sensitive and loving husband and father with the vengeful hatred of his grandfather.

As usual with Bergman all the characters are fully rounded human beings in traumatic situations.

The "making of" feature is devoted to Bergman's directing "Saraband", providing historic evidence of his deep concentration and the quiet calm of the studio during filming.

A very fine film and a wonderful ending to Bergman's directing career.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the road, 21 Nov. 2007
By 
Alojz Kajinic (Carnegie, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
One of the things that truly impressed me with this film is the meticulous attention that Bergman paid to small details. His selection of music is a case in point.

The second movement of Bach's Fifth Cello Suite (Sarabande), whose excerpts we hear in this film, is intimate and very sorrowful (almost like a piece of funeral music), as if to signal the end of the road. The non-chordal nature of this movement (it consists of a single melodic line) was a great way to subtly remind us of the existential loneliness of the four main characters, as well as our own.

Or, take for example Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, which Johan (one of the four main characters) was listening to very loudly in one scene. Bruckner spent the last nine years of his life composing this symphony (and actually never finishing it). Its Adagio is contended, at least by some Brucknerites, to be a farewell to life.

This very last of Bergman's films feels like his own requiem. It can make us sad, that's for sure. But the music of his cinematography is still heavenly beautiful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Johan Bergman?, 20 Nov. 2007
By 
Dr. R. G. Bullock "Gavin Bullock" (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This chamber piece concludes Bergman's exploration of the pathology of human relationships. Johan (Erland Josephson) is a reclusive millionnaire who lives in a remote place surrounded by forest and lakes. His son, Henrik (Börje Ahlstedt) lives in a smaller house in his father's grounds with his daughter, Karin (Julia Dufvenius). Karin is a promising cellist and her father is teaching her to play a difficult Bach saraband (a saraband is a slow dance in a certain rhythm). He presses her too far on occasions, even using physical force to stop her leaving a lesson. Johan's wife and Karin's mother, Anna, died a few years before from what sounds like cancer.

This trio is the emotional engine of the film, in particular the hatred between Johan and his son. Lying over all three, like a shroud, is the absence of Anna and her love. When Anna is mentioned in a significant way, her black and white photograph is seen, the camera tracking slowly towards it. I gather that the lovely woman is Bergman's late wife and this fact gives her ghostly presence an autobiographical poignancy. Her death was a devastating blow to her emotionally inadequate husband and son.

Henrik teaches music but makes a poor living. Though not obviously a spend thrift, he cannot live on his income and repeatedly asks his father for money. This keeps him in Johan's orbit despite their mutual hatred for each other. Johan hated Henrik almost from the start - overweight and wheedling - and in one powerful scene he tells his son how, when Henrik was 18, he made an apology of sorts and was rebuffed. It seems Henrick is like he is because of Johan. What emotional damage would be done by a father who was repulsed by you and hated you? Yet Johan does not appear to be a cruel man in other ways. In the last interview he ever gave in 2005, Bergman was asked why he never kept in touch with his many children. He replied that he wasn't really into family life. Could the Johan-Henrik relationship have some bearing on Bergman's own absence of emotional bonds to his offspring?

Henrik's relationship with Karin is far from normal. He is over-dependent on his daughter and this is a strain on her. Although there was nothing explicit, I thought there was sexual overtones to their relationship. They slept in the same double bed and there was one scene (used in publicity photos for the film) where she kneels before her seated father. She puts her arms round his neck and strokes his neck with her hands. She does this as she would to a lover. She is extremly tender and I found this scene surprisingly beautiful.

Marianne (Liv Ullman) plays Johan's ex-wife who decides to look him up. She tries to explore their distant marriage, without much success. She strikes up a relationship with Karin - perhaps the young woman finds some of the love her mother gave her. Marianne's role, though important, is partly a structural device, facilitating the flow of the film, book-ending it with her photographs spread out on her table at home and leading us into the main action (perhaps not an appropriate word for a Bergman film).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beauty and stillness, 18 April 2006
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is a great film from Bergman. It is filled with a great silence. The silence of lost and last opportunity. The silent realisation that life without love is meaningless. All the actors are magnificent. It was great seeing the two actors from Scenes from a Marriage reunited after all these years. A great feeling of closure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A sequel like no other, 10 Jun. 2012
By 
K. Gordon - See all my reviews
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We return to the couple from `Scenes From a Marriage' 30 years later. They haven't seen each other in all that time. Marianne, still working as a lawyer, goes to visit Johan, now living off a rich inheritance in a house in the woods. The film examines the tremendous and sad complexity of Johan's life, and the further unsettling influence of Marianne's return to the scene.

While there is a surface pleasure in seeing the two together again, we realize how poisonous Johan has become, allowing his 61 year old son from an earlier marriage, and his granddaughter to live in a separate house on the estate, although he hates his son. The granddaughter is in turn trapped by a desperate, near incestuous relationship with her father. In a series of simple, honest, and very powerful scenes, we watch these characters bounce off of each other in various combinations.

And while all of them are plagued by deep, perhaps unforgivable flaws, I always understood that Bergman felt for them, and wished the fragments of humanity buried inside could free them. I didn't feel the film was as dark as many people for this reason. Like a directing priest, Bergman hates the sin, but not the sinner, so these people, so easy to hate, or at least dismiss on paper, keep us interested and emotionally involved, praying they will find their way out of the darkness. A strong and powerful swan song from a great film-maker, making his last film at 85.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A sequel like no other, 10 Jun. 2012
By 
K. Gordon - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
We return to the couple from `Scenes From a Marriage' 30 years later. They haven't seen each other in all that time. Marianne, still working as a lawyer, goes to visit Johan, now living off a rich inheritance in a house in the woods. The film examines the tremendous and sad complexity of Johan's life, and the further unsettling influence of Marianne's return to the scene.

While there is a surface pleasure in seeing the two together again, we realize how poisonous Johan has become, allowing his 61 year old son from an earlier marriage, and his granddaughter to live in a separate house on the estate, although he hates his son. The granddaughter is in turn trapped by a desperate, near incestuous relationship with her father. In a series of simple, honest, and very powerful scenes, we watch these characters bounce off of each other in various combinations.

And while all of them are plagued by deep, perhaps unforgivable flaws, I always understood that Bergman felt for them, and wished the fragments of humanity buried inside could free them. I didn't feel the film was as dark as many people for this reason. Like a directing priest, Bergman hates the sin, but not the sinner, so these people, so easy to hate, or at least dismiss on paper, keep us interested and emotionally involved, praying they will find their way out of the darkness. A strong and powerful swan song from a great film-maker, making his last film at 85.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What does "to be or not to be?" mean?, 24 Feb. 2014
By 
Helen Cramer (Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
My interest in the film had been provoked by an interview related by Aldo Garzia (in "Il Manifesto" of 23 January 2014 after the death of the Maestro Claudio Abbado) that an Italian newspaper, "ll Corriere della Sera", had had with the Maestro and which had been published on 22 September 2004. My interpretation of this beautiful and emotionally-charged film, the last of which Bergman was to make and he talks about this in the wonderful documentary that accompanies the film in the DVD, is "just" that: the emotional experiences behind our choices, and our ability to firstly put them in focus as far as possible and then face them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pas de deux, 16 July 2009
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Marianne visits Johan 30 years after their divorce. We saw them last in Scenes From a Marriage.You don't need to have seen the earlier film, but it's the background.Johan is now 85, and living from the wealth he got from an inheritance in a lakeside wilderness retreat. The film has a prologue, with Marianne going through all her photos, spread out before her, and deciding on impulse she'd like to visit Johan,now she has time on her hands to see what has happened to him. She speaks to camera, as she enters his abode almost coquettishly, doors close, a cuckoo clock sings,she finds him resting on the veranda. Although he had asked her not to come, he is pleasantly startled, and they soon fall into hand-holding reminiscence of the past.He lives surrounded by his books and has a lady who calls to cook and clean,who he thinks has designs on him.His son Henrik,lives nearby in a woodlandcottage with his daughter Karin.There are 4 characters in the film and one character,Anna,who died 2 years ago with cancer. She is Karin's mother, and Henrik's dearly beloved wife, she hovers like a benign ghost(close- ups on her photo)over the other characters, symbolic of unconditional love. Marianne is a calming presence and a catalyst for repressed feelings between this family's 3 members.

The film is divided into 10 segments, in each of which one character has a scene with every other character and through their interactions, of 2-person dialogues intense drama is wrung out of this structure. Originally made for TV, shot on digital video, the characters are mainly shot in interiors, with many close-ups of the actors faces. A `saraband `is one of the movements from Bach's 5th Cello Suite. A saraband is also a two-person erotic dance. Bergman strips his characters emotionally naked.Marianne, is an onlooker in the emotional sturm und drang. The main story is the intense,vitriolic hatred between father and son, Johan and Henrik. Johan withholds some of his son's inheritance, which he has asked him to forward so he can buy Karin a Cello.Almost as much is the smothering,incestuous love between Henrik and Karin, since his wife's death. Henrik imposes upon her nature and overdisciplines her talents so he can get her into the conservatoire. She wishes to not be a soloist, but play in an orchestra with other people. She literally screams and fights him and runs off in her nightdress into the woods, shrieking off camera.Henrik is an organist and conductor but he has given a lot up to spend his time giving her tutorials. Bach, Bruckner and Brahms are played.

Marianne meets Henrik in a church playing the organ,they politely converse,but he turns nasty about his desire to see his father die and he wouldn't lift a finger.He also questions her about her motives:does she want Johan's money?Karin finds an outlet for her grief in Marianne, and shows her a letter she found from Anna to Henrik,in which she warns Henrik of his unnatural closeness to Karin. Karin shares a bed with her father and kisses him on the lips when she tells him she has decided to train in Helsinki. She knows she has to break away from his dependency but fears his suicidal nature.Her grandfather, Johan, sees her and encourages her to work with a
conductor friend, saying he will support her.While staying with Johan, Marianne is woken one night by Johan having an outbreak of extreme anxiety about his mortality and they both strip, and lie next to each other in bed. Ullman and Erlandson act with great sensitivity and awareness from their previous experiences. Dufuvenius(Karin),and Ahlstedt(Henrik), are their equals.Bergman interestingly pays homage to his wife,who died with cancer, by using her photograph, as Anna;he also regretted never getting close to his own son, who had died before he could.This is no gentle swansong. There is the lacerating exposure to hate,fear, lost love,unfulfilled ambitions, poor parents,
nearness to death. Marianne is changed by the experience, to touch her daughter in a mental hospital. Only a film-maker of genius can capture so much intense negativity and wild emotion, and yet he leaves you with the hope of Karin's escape and future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly-acted very moving film., 24 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Saraband [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is one of my three favourite Bergman films (the others being "Autumn Sonata" and "Fanny and Alexander"). The 30-year gap between "Saraband" and "Scenes From a Marriage" is well-bridged and this film follows on comfortably from the earlier one. The acting is outstanding; it invariably is with Ullmann and Josephson and that of Dufvenius and Ahlstedt attain this high standard, too. A very moving film.
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Saraband [DVD] [2005]
Saraband [DVD] [2005] by Ingmar Bergman (DVD - 2006)
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