Faithless

Movie Review by Lisa Henshall

Starring: Lena Endre, Erland Josephson, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon
Director: Liv Ullmann

Ingmar Bergman’s wrote the screenplay for Trolösa (FAITHLESS) based on an adulterous affair he undertook with a beautiful journalist in 1949, and one which changed his life dramatically. And just to emphasise this the character of the old man is called Bergman (played by veteran actor Erland Josephson) making it feel all the more personal. Marianne (played by Lena Endre) as with so many of the leads in Bergman’s own films (including Liv Ullmann herself – before she took up directing) is undoubtedly inspired by that woman in the early affair.

FAITHLESS opens on an old man living in an isolated house by the sea. He is trying to put down on paper, the intricacies of a destructive affair – something which affected him in the past. He is helped by an actress who takes on the part of Marianne and tells her side of the story (although at times you feel that perhaps she is a figment of his imagination). Marianne is very happily married to Markus (Thomas Hanzon) a successful conductor and they have a lovely 9 year-old daughter, Isabelle (Michelle Gylemo). David (Krister Henriksson) a surly, twice-divorced, theatre director, is Markus’ best friend and acts like a brother to Marianne, as well as being Isabelle’s favourite bedtime storyteller.

However, when Markus is away touring with the orchestra, Marianne and David start to become unhealthily close, and soon decide to embark on an affair. They spend a couple of romantic, passionate weeks in Paris – all agreed with Markus beforehand who doesn’t appear suspicious of their actions. However, during their time in Paris, they have a discussion about past lovers, to which David becomes intensely and uncontrollably jealous and they have their first argument. On their return home, they continue the affair but things change dramatically when Markus returns early from his tour.

In his screenplay, Bergman put the emphasis on Marianne as the ‘innocent’ victim – probably as a result of guilty feelings about his own part in the destruction of his earlier relationship. However, the project was too painful for him to film personally and so he approached Ullmann. When she took on the project she changed the emphasis on the ‘innocent’ character to that of Isabelle, the child – whom she felt was the true victim of the story.

This is a powerful and compelling drama and, unlike many modern films, Ullmann isn’t afraid to let the story keep a natural, thoughtful pace, to enable the audience to be totally immersed in the relationships. There are moments of humour and warmth, passion and anger. We empathise with each of the adults at different stages – even if someone has never been unfaithful to us, we can all understand the devastation that betrayal causes. Infidelity, though exciting in the initial stages, inevitably causes pain to those we love and this film is a testament to that self-destruction. Ultimately, the person who really loses out, is the child, caught in an emotional battle that she doesn’t understand that is destroying the people that she loves.

5 out of 6 stars

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