The Bergman Files: Thirst

“It is the politics of relationships and the sociology of the psyche that is really Bergman’s concern. Marriage and the perils of domestic life”. – Michiko Kakutani on the concerns of Bergman’s films.

Ingmar Bergman’s 7th directorial effort Thirst (1949) continues in a similar thematic vein to a number of his early efforts, focusing on relationships, unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Here he also shines a light on the sexes and what defines them.

Eva Henning, who gives a fantastic performance in Thirst.

Just as the quote above from Kakutani suggests, this film from Bergman is deeply concerned with relationships and the politics that can affect them. The film opens with a mistress who does not know she is a mistress. Her lover is a military man. Eventually the affair is discovered and the main character is confronted by the military man’s wife. All of this is wrought with the politics and ethics of relationships and lust. Once again there is an unwanted pregnancy and once again it ends with an abortion. The abortion in this film is a real focal point and it deeply affects the character of Rut who undergoes the procedure. This is probably the most effective aspect of the film and Bergman makes this fallout feel a lot more real than in the other couple of films that have had abortions take place. Rut struggles through and verbalises her post-abortion struggle, how it makes her feel inside both emotionally and physically. The crushing pain of the procedure that she did not want. In these parts of the film, Eva Henning who plays Rut, gives a really fantastic performance.

The film is jarring in that it relatively late in the piece brings in an entirely new plotline featuring a borderline evil psychiatrist and lesbian seduction. It is pretty inexplicable how all this is brought in and really quite befuddling for the viewer, even one paying careful attention. This film is not as interestingly shot as Bergman’s previous film Prison. But it is really nicely edited with some creative fades and match shots.  If it was not so confusing what was going on, the film would have been a whole lot more interesting. Especially with the continual emphasising of the distinction between the sexes, which is a nice thematic addition from Bergman. But unfortunately one that is buried by the film’s shortcomings.

As you have probably gathered, Thirst left me monumentally underwhelmed, a second pretty major disappointment in a row. But at least the earlier Prison had started off really quite ambitious and intriguing – no such sort of saving grace for Thirst. This is rambling and Bergman’s thematic concerns are starting to get quite wearisome.

Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught

 ‘The Bergman Files’ Leaderboard

  1. It Rains on our Love (1946)
  2. Crisis (1946)
  3. Port of Call (1948)
  4. Music in Darkness (1948)
  5. A Ship Bound for India (1947)
  6. Prison (1949)
  7. Thirst (1949)

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