English Title: Face to Face
Original Title: Ansikte mot ansikte
Country: Sweden, Italy
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman
One of my film-watching habits is to amble around widely-ranging varieties of films from different directors, different eras, different genres and different countries, then randomly picks one under my own volition, from time to time, I may have a compulsive appetite towards Ingmar Bergman, though whose films often demands a longer interval between, almost 5 months after watching SUMMER INTERLUDE (1951), my second entry of this year’s Bergman pilgrimage is FACE TO FACE, his latter psychiatric study of a tormented woman’s endeavor to find her true self, and the most extraordinary feat is unbiasedly attributed to Liv Ullmann’s tour-de-force commitment to her role, a quintessential once-in-a-lifetime liberation to be elicited on the screen, a touchstone for Liv’s legendary career!
A 35mm color film, Liv Ullmann plays a psychiatrist, who has just emptied her house and relocated to live with her grandparents while waiting to be transferred abroad with her frequent-on-business husband and her daughter, currently is in a student camp. Then the claustrophobic apartment where her grandparents stay apparently is also the place she spent most of her childhood, and it uncannily resurrects the wraith of a forbidding image haunts her once and now reappears, an indeed hair-raiser out of Bergman’s indomitable close-framing.
Liv’s mental condition keeps going downhill after she experiences an unsuccessful rape attempt, which subsequently evokes her inner sexual dissatisfaction and she confides to her new acquaintance she at first met at a friend’s birthday party (a fellow doctor whose initiative towards her is a moot and will turn out to be closeted gay man, played by Josephson, who retreats from Liv’s counterpart husband in SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE 1973, to a sidelined observer) about her innermost desire. Deeply harassed by the recurring wraith she executes a futile suicide, whereupon she alternatively battles between dream and reality, the illusory dream sequences cast a self-emancipating spell on her but remains elusive to its audiences (her strait-laced childhood, the guilt towards her parents’ car accident etc.), finally she seems to convalesce from the incubus and decides to return to work and embrace a brand new day as if nothing has happened, the film abruptly ends, withholding its own POV of what will ensue next.
Death and love is an eternal theme for Bergman, and they surround each other, through his stoic camerawork and overlong gazes into Liv’s escalating breakdown, under the veneer of a normal life, each human individual has a variety of discrepant mentalities contribute to our own distinctiveness and intricacy, within the art form of cinema, no one can best Bergman in this slant and FACE TO FACE is his fastidious anatomy of a living soul to the utmost bareness, as disquieting and repercussive as ever!