1980s, 3/4, Bergman, Review

After the Rehearsal

Image result for after the rehearsal poster

Here’s an interesting little movie with a cast of three, set entirely on a stage, and that jumps backwards and forwards in time.

Henrik is a theater director spending some time alone on the stage after a rehearsal of A Dream Play by August Strindberg. He wants to collect himself before he returns to his domicile to take a nap prior to that night’s rehearsal. As he sits there, one of his actresses, Anna, arrives on stage with a thin story of looking for a bracelet. What follows is a long conversation between the two that swirls around topics as it operates as some kind of seduction, direction, and exploration of the other.

About a third of the way through, something happens that is quite jarring at first. Another woman shows up on stage. This is Rakel, Anna’s mother who has been dead for ten years. Anna sits on the couch watching the scene without moving or speaking, and we soon deduce that Henrik is playing out a conversation he had had with Rakel eleven years before, just prior to her death.

Rakel was a great actress in her day. She played the same role Anna is playing to great acclaim, but she had Anna and quit acting. At the time of the conversation, she’s living in a hospital and the small role she’s playing (the mother) is almost an act of pity on the part of Henrik. He used to love her, but she spurned his affections before. However, in this conversation, she throws herself at him, and Henrik cannot stand it. He eventually makes an empty promise to follow her to her room, but we get the impression that there’s going to be no encounter.

The conversation returns to Anna as Henrik takes up the exact same position he had been in when Rakel had walked on, implying that what we had seen was just a memory that had passed in a flash. In this final third of the film, souls are bared and dark revelations of Anna’s recent past come out. There are protestations of love and hate. It’s a swirl of emotions that’s surprisingly effective.

The movie ends when the camera suddenly cuts to a new view we haven’t seen before. The movie has almost entirely shot with cameras from the audience pit, but the final shot is to the stage from the side. We see a giant brick wall and the director and young actress small against it. The conversation even changes tenor becoming more professional in nature than emotional. Something’s drastically changed.

Early in the movie, Henrik talks about how he’s willing to do anything to work with actors (whom he loves) in order to help them reach their potential. He looks like he’s playing in their field, but he’s never really involved. So, at that final shot, those words came back to me, and I asked, “Was it all an act?” Were the high emotions and swings all about directing his actor?

It’s an interesting exploration of the relationship between directors and actors, something obviously intimately familiar to Bergman. Watching the movie, it became obvious how Bergman could strike up so many affairs with so many of his actresses, and, at the same time, how they could all fall apart in the end. Still, the movie is a little insular to acting specifically which limits its broad appeal. It’s a good little movie, a fascinating little footnote in Bergman’s career.

Netflix Rating: 4/5

Quality Rating: 3/4

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