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aka - Riten
Sweden 1969
Directed by
Ingmar Bergman
74 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Rite, The (1969)

Ingrid Thulin, Anders Ek and Gunner Björnstrand play an internationally famous troupe of cabaret artists who are being investigated by a Dutch judge (Erik Hell) after charges of obscenity are laid against them. The investigation culminates in a re-enactment of the performance which is so harrowing for the judge that he has a heart attack and expires on the spot.

Made for Swedish television and shown theatrically elsewhere, Bergman's adaptation of his own play is a minimalist (i.e low budget) affair, beautifully shot by Sven Nykvist, with typically Bergman philosophical intertwining of the theatrical and social worlds using the central image of the mask to explore the conflicting nature of the public and the private. 

Having much in common with the director’s 1958 film, The Magician, The Rite is an intense and frank exposition of Bergman’s worldview – in a nutshell, the horror of relationships – whether it be that between the repugnantly officious judge over the three actors, or their disintegrating ménage a trois.  Seen first as a group then focussed on individually or in pairs in soul-baring episodes divided by intertitles, everyone is afflicted by spiritual and sometimes physical sickness that is progressively exposed before the deadly performance (the judges death is more the result of his own projections and anticipations than anything directly attributable to the performance itself).  A glum-fest extraordinaire, one wonders what Swedish television was like back then that this was actually considered as small screen entertainment. Bergman fans however will not be disappointed.




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