Written by: Johan Fundin on January 31st, 2007
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography: Göran Strindberg
Producer: Lorens Marmstedt
Cast: Doris Svedlund, Birger Malmsten, Eva Henning, Hasse Ekman, Stig Olin, Irma Christenson, Anders Henriksson, Marianne Löfgren, Bibi Lindqvist.
Approximate running time: 76mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 Academy ratio, B&W
Rating: 15 (Sweden), 15 (UK), 16 (Finland). Contains sex references and violence.
Sound: Mono 1.0
DVD release date: 26 June 2006
DVD release: Tartan Video
Region coding: R0/PAL
Retail price: £14.99
“It was important to me that she [Doris Svedlund] had to look like a whore” – I. Bergman
“This is a fascinating film, not only for its thematic tussle between the attraction of suicide and the comfort of faith, but for its many stylistic endeavors.” – Tartan Video
The film seems to have been directed in fury. Known as Bergman’s first “Death” movie, suicidal viewers had better to stay away from it. A dark film so depressingly dark it is painful to watch it. The glorification of suicide as a pain reliever is the most arresting fragment in Prison, an ultra-low budget movie that makes The Evil Dead look like a multimillion-dollar blockbuster. Bergman has reputedly been quoted as saying that Prison is “the cheapest film ever made in a Swedish studio”. And if we continue with The Evil Dead comparison for just another moment, whatever the highlight is in Sam Raimi’s film, its mind-bending though comic horror is outdone by the knife-inflicted suicide scene in Prison, a film completely stripped from humour or clichés. Prison is a downright assault on the senses.
Legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s first foray into the realm of Death paranoia that would characterize a series of masterpieces invented by the darker side of the director’s melancholic mind. How Tartan Video could release an uncut DVD version of Prison might generate a few questions, given the sensitivity of the British Board of Film Censorship with respect to violence against animals in movies. Intriguingly, according to the International Movie Data Base, Prison was originally given an X-rating in the UK.
Prison is a film within a film. It is set in and around a film studio. A director is contacted by one of his old University lecturers who brings his idea about a new film: That the world is ruled by The Devil. To make a movie about Hell would be fascinating, the director thinks, and he passes the idea on to a young journalist who is going through a trauma himself, involving his teenage prostitute girlfriend (who is only 17) and her violent pimp.
The acting performances are truly extraordinary, especially by Doris Svedlund as the teenage prostitute and by Birger Malmsten as the suicidal alcoholic who threatens to kill his wife and himself in a kind of ‘double suicide’. Svedlund is as great as Jodie Foster is in her analogical role in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. And for the visuals, look out for the long dream (nightmare) sequence close to the end – a masterful piece of haunting horror.
Prison, the director’s sixth film, ignites the exploration and themes of Death that eventually would be optimally expanded in The Seventh Seal (1957). For scholars in Film, Art and Media science it might be interesting to watch, and compare, the two movies in a double-bill.
The release from Tartan Video looks similar to the other releases in their extensive Bergman collection. Though it seems that Tartan have made a mistake concerning the aspect ratio. The film was shot in 1.33:1 which is slightly different to the academy ratio. So what is this telling us? Is the photo cropped? Overall the image looks sharp and clean with no major print defects.
This release comes with the films original Swedish language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The audio is on par with Tartan’s other Bergman DVD releases. English subtitles have been included.
Extras for this release consist of filmographies for Ingmar Bergman, Birger Malmsten and Doris Svedlund and trailers for Persona and Autumn Sonata and a four page booklet with liner notes written by Philip Strick.
Prison an early masterpiece from Ingmar Bergman gets an above average DVD release from Tartan.