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aka - Gycklarnas Afton
Sweden 1953
Directed by
Ingmar Bergman
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Sawdust And Tinsel

This unremittingly (bar the slight glimmer of stoical humour at the very end) jaundiced account of a troupe of flea-bitten circus performers (Sawdust) and an only slightly less tawdry theatre group (Tinsel) is impressive for its mise-en-scène, making striking use of the placement of characters and use of camera angles for dramatic effect. It in many ways establishes a style and approach to subject matter (brief time span, a small ensemble of players, a circular structure and so on) which would typify many of Bergman's films of the '50s and '60s. Its anachronistic stylisation recalls German and Soviet silent cinema (although Bergman claimed not to be familiar with Eisenstein's films the classic sequence with the sexual humiliation of the clown, played by Anders Ek, and his wife played by Gudrun Brost, is striking in this respect) not to mention Alf Sjöberg's Miss Julie that had been release to international success two years earlier .

The film which was shot on the Baltic coast is beautifully photographed by Hilding Bladh, co-cinematographer with Sven Nykvist in his first collaboration with Bergman, was roundly disparaged at the time in Sweden for its bleakness but has since, justifiably, come to be regarded as one of Bergman's most lasting films, which is saying something.

Written by the director, the story, set at the turn of the century, is characteristically concerned with the ignoble, self-defeating side of human nature and features excellent performances by the principals - Ake Grönberg as the owner of the crummy circus. Harriet Andersson as his mistress and Jasse Ekman as the actor who seduces her and Gunnar Björnstrand as the owner of the theatre troupe - whilst the effective score was by Karl-Bürger Blomdahl, one of Sweden's leading composers of the day. 

FYI: The film is also known as The Naked Night.





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