- Actors: Stig Jarrell, Alf Kjellin, Mai Zetterling, Olof Winnerstrand, Gosta Bjorne
- Directors: Alf Sjoberg
- Producers: Harald Molander, Victor Sjostrom
- Format: PAL
- Language: Swedish
- Subtitles: English
- Region: All Regions
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Tartan
- DVD Release Date: 6 Dec. 2004
- Run Time: 101 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B0006A9780
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,653 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Torment  [DVD]
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Marking Ingmar Bergman's debut as screenwriter and directed by Alf Sjöberg, this expressionistic crime of passion revolves around a young student, Jan-Erik (Alf Kjellin), his sadistic Latin teacher, nicknamed 'Caligula' (Stig Järrel), and a newsagent assistant-cum-prostitute, Bertha (Mai Zetterling). When Jan-Erik assists the drunken Bertha, he becomes her lover. Bertha is, however, terrified of another man, whom it becomes clear is terrorising her. When Jan-Erik finds Bertha dead, he accuses Caligula of being responsible. The themes of creaticity, mentors and oppressive authority, which would become Bergman's trademarks, are staked out in this semi-autobiographical work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
As he tells us in his autobiographical Images, "Torment" started out as "an obsessive, anger-filled story about the torments of school and youth." Like all of Bergman's work, the story was pretty confessional and dark. The ending in Bergman's original script has all the students except the main character passing their final exams. The failed student walks out of the school into the rain, with his tormenter, the schoolteacher nicknamed Caligula, standing at a window watching him. Even at this early stage of his career, Bergman was leaving audiences with ambiguous endings, refusing to tie up his films in artificially neat packages.
But SF honchos felt this ending was too depressing, so they changed it to the happier ending that's in the film. They also transformed the Caligula character into an insecure and haunted crypto-Nazi, something Bergman hadn't intended. But this re-envisioning of Caligula, and Stig Jarrel's masterful performance, doesn't mar the film. Nor does Sjoberg's fantastic expressionist camera work.
Still, the experience taught Bergman a valuable lesson: artistic integrity in the film industry meant that the film maker wrote and directed his own stuff, and that he resisted becoming financially dependent on studios. In the years to come, Bergman would write nearly two-thirds of the films he directed, and he only rarely got tied up with big-money producers.
Its a shame that this work has been so over-publicized. Ostensibly, it couldn't be a more auspicious project: a collaboration of two of Sweden's greatest film-makers (we can lament the fact that Sjoberg's fame has so faded over time, for he really was a talented film-maker). Unfortunately, it can be written off as an opportunity missed. The film was being made for Svenski Film's anniversary and seems to have been somewhat hastily, maybe dispassionately, put together. This isn't Sjoberg's best work by a long shot, even for its few gem moments. The writing is harmlessly mediocre; an angst-ridden story about a tortured student intellectual. Clearly its a film Bergman must regret, for the brilliance of his later writing is little evident. It has a flavor of Bergman, but the most immature of all of his writing.
The plot centers around a young woman who keeps two lovers: one, the chief protagonist, a bright young student full of youthful idealism: the other one of his instructors, whom we only know as Caligula -- a lonely old man who lashes out and torments every human who he comes in contact with. Eventually, and predictably, the two come into conflict.
Torment is not a bad film by any measure, but one can't help but be disappointed by it. It should be of some interest to both Sjoberg and Bergman fans. Mild recommendation.
The story, however, is maybe the engaging side of mediocrity. The film draws you into the downward spiral of the main characters (the central focus of the story) without making the world seem hopeless and desolate. But it doesn't reach the pre-poop-your-pants euphoria it seems to promise. It's almost there, but doesn't realy ever clinch it.
The spiral of these characters is hidden within the world of the film. The torment, is silent, removed, intricate. The film is not what I expected from the early Bergman collection, and is not perfect, but is well worth the rent, for it's politics of the body, insight into Bergman's work and a subtle story that shames American suspense's absurdity, it's over-the-top plot structures, and its star driven sales. It's real, dark, flawed yet engaging. Worth a viewing or two.