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Shame (1968)
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by Dr. Isaksson

"When you awaken feeling shame"
5 stars

As the turbulent 1960's came to it's close, Sweden's best known director decided that after opening up Pandora's Box on the highly personal 'demons' which had attacked both himself and his lead character in 1966's "Hour of The Wolf", it was time for a complete turn around. Instead of swirling dreams and visions of terror inside a man's collapsing mind as he looses his battle with sanity, Bergman brought forth the real flesh and blood demonic force known as war.

1968's Shame slips in quietly into the lives of a married couple of concert violinists named Jan and Eva (played by Bergman mainstays Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.) We awaken with them from the start of the film and witness the simple day to day rituals of the two. (This was the first shades of the future films Bergman was to write and direct based on the events and emotions of a married couple's life.) Only here, the dull drum morning is quickly interrupted when Jan speaks suddenly of the 'war'. Our first inkling that these two are well aware that outside of the small island that they have fled to, there is a fued waging on the main land. Even with this knowledge of what is happening on the outside, the pair have seemed to keep a life of contented solitude on the island which they have filled with calming beautiful things. The two raise chickens, grow vegetables and even have a greenhouse in the small farm-like environment that is their home.

However, all of this peace is shattered in an instant when an unexpected fighter plane is shot down on the outskirts of their farm and among the crashing and burning metal, strange, unknown fighters make their way up to Jan and Eva. Filled with questions and interested in any possible involvement with the other opposing force, the fighters drop their brutal attacks down on the innocent couple. Without warning the two are unwillingly entangled in the web and find there is no escape from this war that, at one time, seemed so far away.

Suddenly the action comes fast and furious as Eva and Jan become unwilling participants in the bloodshed between the two armies who remain strangely ambiguous and unidentified. We the viewer are lead into the hour by hour account of how the human race must face a war that has no mercy for those who are not to blame. There is an intense hanging aura of doom that permeates the film throughout, which is a welcome change from the typical Bergman style of internal struggles. This time the struggle comes from both spectrums of the human experience. It gives Shame a highly intense atmosphere that easily shifts from one extreme of the outside world to the horrified extreme of the inside emotions of those afflicted by this raging outside world.

Ingmar Bergman directs the transitions from the external and internal without any loss of flow or feeling. A wonderful feat for a director who has always been so well known for his 'quiet moments'. Shame is filled with huge explosive scenes and the camera captures the destructive force of bombs and gun fire with amazing effectiveness. If you were to think the concept of Shame over, you would think Bergman would be out of his element but he handles it all with his usual crafty and beautifully visual hands and mind.
It's safe to say that Bergman was always a great internal director, but here he proves that he is capable of creating a film filled with moments of explosiveness as we see planes dart overhead and endless exploding bombs tearing apart the quiet, lush landscapes. Then without even knowing it we are led down into the deep internal conflicts and decisions his characters must face and Bergman desplays this all with his trademark deep and agonizing exposure of the tortured soul that lies behind the face. Bit by bit he gives us a first hand account of the ravages of conflict which in most ways can and will only encompass, erode and control the lives of poor Jan and Eva, with horrifying, tragic and disastrous results.

Not shockingly, the performances by Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow are among the best these two have ever given. There's a great deal of emotion to expose here and they do not fail in their attempt to show us everything they are capable of. What was particularly surprising (and nice to see) is the turn Von Sydow gives in his performance as Jan, making him cowardly weak and vulnerable, which poses a huge contrast to Eva's more determined and compassionate demeanor. They both succeed in bringing forth two very poinant, empathetic characters which only compliments the amazing writing and directing.

Shame plays out in a sinister and eerie fashion. Just like the bite of a poisonous snake, the brutality of war poisons the souls of Jan and Eva, slowly and relentlessly erasing their dignity and their hope. There seems only to be a feeling of no turning back, no chance to escape and no where to run. Those obstacles permeate the film's core and leaves the viewer stunned and profoundly moved by the terror and hopelessness felt by those who must stand silently among the wreckage of what has destroyed their lives and decide whether to go on and push through the insurmountable odds or simply lie down and let it swallow them up forever. Amazing work.

Shame is an unforgettable account of the devastation of war with top quality writing, acting, directing. A must see for Bergman fans. ***** 5 Stars

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9859&reviewer=296
originally posted: 08/09/05 02:31:16
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User Comments

5/21/17 David Hollingsworth A stark and powerful tale of love ravaged by war. 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Much less insightful than your average Bergman film, thus a bit easier to watch repeatedly. 4 stars
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  23-Dec-1968 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2004



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