Written by: Johan Fundin on May 29th, 2006
Release Date: Sweden, November 10th, 1969
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Erland Josephson, Erik Hell
DVD released: August 2nd, 2004
Approximate running time: 96 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 non anamorphic widescreen
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Swedish, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
Subtitles: English, Dutch, Greek
DVD Release: MGM Home Ent. (Europe) Ltd.
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £6.97 (UK)
“We wanted to make a film in color as it had never been done before. Our ambition was to make a black-and-white film in color, with certain hues emphasized in a strictly defined color scale.” – I.B.
Four lost souls. An animal killer. And a man trying to find himself through a deceased namesake.
An analytical document and an exploration of minds, Bergman’s second color movie is pretty strange. Not primarily because of the technical ambition to shoot it in a way far beyond the established rules and conventions of the time regarding colors, but because of the complex and complicated plot about four misfits on an island, and a peculiar sub-plot about a madman who tortures and kills animals in a gruesome and gory way (beware, animal lovers…)
The four lost characters in A Passion (The Passion of Anna) would qualify for citizenship in Takashi Miike’s City of Lost Souls:
Andreas Winkelman (von Sydow) has since a long time tried to hide from the surrounding world and seeks reconciliation with his own soul and life. His failed marriage and legal worries makes him to conceal his identity. Andreas is emotionally handicapped and lacks expression.
Elis Vergerus (Josephson) is a designer and architect who has recently been offered to design a new cultural centre in Milan. According to him a cultural centre is a mausoleum over the utter meaninglessness in which people of our kind live. In his spare time, Elis collects all kinds of pointless pictures of people: People eating, people asleep in the grip of violent emotions, and pictures of acts of violence.
Anna Fromm (Ullmann) has a profound need of truth in her life and expects the world to appear in a certain way, but her strong desire for truth is a danger to her. She takes refuge in lies and simulation to hide unpleasant events and circumstances from her past.
Eva Vergerus (Andersson) – Elis’ wife – is a fragile woman with deep emotions. She feels that she does not belong anywhere and is constantly unfaithful to her husband. Eva is a product of others, is psychologically isolated and suicidal. Eva was once the mistress of Anna’s husband.
One day Anna comes to Andreas’ house to use his telephone. Afterwards she forgets her purse, and Andreas finds a letter in it, a letter from Anna’s husband (also called Andreas) revealing that he wants to leave her. It says that he does not believe in new attempts to save their marriage since he is convinced that would lead to new complications and terrible mental disturbances, physical and psychological acts of violence.
“terrible mental disturbances, physical and psychological acts of violence”
The words from the letter echo in Andreas Winkelman’s head. He becomes curious about the personality of Anna’s former husband and decides to search for more information about him. When Elis is away on a business trip to Milan, Eva comes to Andreas and they spend the whole night together. He finds out that Anna’s husband and son have been killed in a car accident when Anna was driving.
Perhaps the two Andreas have more than just the name in common? The identity of von Sydow’s Andreas character becomes increasingly complex as he is drawn into an intimate relation with Anna and develops a personality not too different to that of her former husband, ultimately expressed in an axe-wielding frustration.
The Passion of Anna is in a letterboxed widescreen that retains the films original aspect ratio. The colors look vivid through out. The source print used for this transfer looks extraordinary.
The original mono soundtrack has been provided for this DVD release and it is available in two languages Swedish and Italian. Every effort has been made to restore the original audio track to the highest level of fidelity possible with modern mastering techniques. English, Dutch and Greek have been included with this release.
Outside of interactive menu screens and chapter selections this release comes with no real extras. The U.S. release is exactly opposite in this regard as it comes with a wealth of extras like The Passion of Anna’s original theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, an original story reading by Elliot Gould, an audio commentary with Ingmar Bergman biographer Marc Gervais, on camera interviews with Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Erland Josephson and a twenty minute featurette titled Disintegration of Passion.
The Passion of Anna, which has been given a 12 certificate in the UK by BBFC, contains brief outbursts of violence, gory imagery of animal cruelty, and graphic female nudity. For some reason the BBFC think it is OK for 12-year old kids to see it.
The Passion of Anna is classic Bergman at the height of his creative powers. Sadly MGM’s region 2 DVD falls short especially, when compared to its region 1 counter part in extra content and until a more definitive release comes along in the UK the region 1 DVD will have to stand as the best available release of the film currently on DVD.