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With: Lena Endre, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon, Erland Josephson, Michelle Gylemo
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Directed by: Liv Ullmann
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, some nudity and language
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
Running Time: 160
Date: 05/13/2000

Faithless (2001)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Flirting the Issue

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Written by the 82 year-old Ingmar Bergman and directed by 61 year-oldLiv Ullman, Faithless comes with a pedigree that's hard to beat. Thisis a team who -- in a different capacity -- made nine classics of world cinematogether, including Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), andAutumn Sonata (1978). In time, Faithless just might be considered atenth.

Since 1984, Bergman has officially retired as a film director, though he's written several screenplays (The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children, and Private Confessions). Ullman turned director in 1992 with Sofie.

Bergman was once notorious for seducing his leading ladies, and Ullman was only the latest victim when she worked with the director in 1966 on Persona. Knowing just this little bit of history lends an essential weight to the quiet and restrained Faithless, which begins in the office of a writer named "Bergman" (Erland Josephson). The writer conjures up his fictional lead character, Marianne (Lena Endre) to help him work out his story.

Married Marianne tells of her innocent flirtation with a family friend, a film and theater director named David (Krister Henriksson). When Marianne gets called to Paris on business, David pretends to have business there as well. In the City of Lights, the couple embarks upon a passionate fling. Unfortunately, they find they can't stop their affair when they return, and Marianne's composer husband Markus (Thomas Hanzon) threatens divorce and attempts to gain custody of their daughter (Michelle Gylemo).

The 2 hour-and-40-minute movie eventually comes to its central scene: Markus offers to let Marianne have custody of their daughter if she will sleep with him just once more (we don't see the result of this offer). At home, David grills her cruelly and incessantly about her choice. This marks the only time in which another character besides Marianne is allowed to speak directly to Bergman. In the old man's office, in the present day, David expresses his regret over his behavior that fateful evening, and his clear understanding as to why he lost Marianne.

Though Ullman plays the divorce melodrama section of the film with expert timing, restraint and emotional resonance, it's the scenes in the old writer's office that truly flower and make the film what it is. Faithless is ultimately not about the divorce, but the feeling of horrible guilt looking back upon it. Most of Bergman's later works, from his brilliant Fanny and Alexander (1983) through Faithless, have been semi-autobiographical, and this film may just be about him working out his own guilt feelings. And with Ullman on board directing them, I would imagine that he is now forgiven even if he cannot forgive himself.

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