marionettes

From The Life Of The Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten)

Germany/Sweden (1980) dir. Ingmar Bergman

Peter Egermann (Robert Atzorn) murders a prostitute named Katarina (Rita Russek), who shares the same name as his wife (Christine Buchegger)) then sodomises the corpse. The reason for Peter’s mental breakdown is then explored in flashback as the criminal interrogator (Karl-Heinz Pelser) interviews everyone involved in or surrounding Peter’s life.

The deteriorating relationship of the feuding couple from Bergman’s earlier work Scenes From A Marriage, Katarina and Peter Egermann, is given further exploration in this made for TV film shot in Germany during Bergman’s tax exile from Sweden. This is arguably one of Begrman’s bleaker works as well as among his bolder outings.

The opening scene in which the murder occurs, is shot in colour then the remainder of the film is in black and white until the closing moments which return to colour. The film looks into the crumbling psyche of Peter who goes from a normal and respectable married man to a confused killer. He regularly visits a psychiatrist Professor Mogens Jensen (Martin Benrath), explaining the odd dreams he has where he can’t sleep with his wife so he kills her. Peter believes that Katarina is being unfaithful and discovers that something seems to be going on between Jensen and Katarina. The rest of the cast – including Katarina’s gay fashion designer partner Tim (Walter Schmidinger), Peter’s mother (Lola Müthel) – reveal their ideas on Peter’s motives and persona through their interviews whilst revealing plenty about themselves and their attitudes towards sex which is a key theme of this film.

It’s quite a hard watch in places but Bergman’s writing is as incisive and provocative as ever, offering another deep and dark exploration into the role of sexual desires in a marriage and in society, which is juxtaposed with a completely incongruous and clashing upbeat disco pop song for the closing theme.

Not one of Bergman’s most celebrated works possibly for good reason but a unique enough outing to warrant sufficient interest.