Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
My last film I watched last year was the Kurosawa film I had seen. Now I’m doing the same with Bergman. And yet, after watching all his features, I still only have the slightest grasp of this film. I can only really relate Vogler and Alma’s relationship to that of how people want to be the perfect selves on social media. The truth is, that perfect image does not exist, it only wants to study you, to be above you, to feel all the horrors and experience none of the pain. Instead that perfect image means it can’t have any of real life, it can’t stand its child, it rather be free to be imperfect like Alma, as it observed during Alma’s confession (that scene is what would classify this for me as a horror genre film, it’s that powerful). To Alma, Vogler is a god. The god Alma always wanted to see herself in, whom she feels the need to seek forgiveness from, though Vogler has done things only for her own gain as an artist. And yet we see she does have feelings, she does want to feel something, but like Alma, they are both trapped in their roles. Fate is the true horror in this world. But it’s not just the actors who move throughout the story. The light dances across their faces on long takes, or causes the room to flash from the TV. Vogler can’t comprehend the horrors of the world. And why try? And the scene when Alma describes Vogler’s hate for her child, I love how Bergman does the exposition twice but with the camera shooting first Vogler’s stone cold reaction and horror, and Alma almost turning into Vogler’s merciless image. Thankfully she leaves. And perhaps the son, who’s image was I think not ripped on the first exposition scene and then was ripped as on Alma’s exposition scene as it was in the beginning of the film, is the boy at the beginning on the table, restless, longing to see the face of his mother in real life, and perhaps in the future the cause of another woman’s suffering like the boy on the beach. Perhaps Bergman, like Alma, is confessing his sins. These questions are what make this film to be so elusive to me, and I think it’s suppose to be that way, to have us continually question our identity when we think we know what we want, that perfect life, and to serve as a cautionary tale of where the pursuit of that life leads.