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Painter Johan (Max von Sydow) and his wife Alma (Liv Ullmann) live on
an island, seemingly far away from civilisation, where he thinks he might
be able to find inner peace while she tries to figure out what's wrong
with him ...
One day, Alma is visited by an old woman who seems to come
out of nowhere and who urgently suggests she should read Johan's diary ...
where she learns stuff about the recent past Johan forgot to tell
her as well as about his long past relationship to Veronica Vogler (Ingrid
Thulin), which eventually led to a scandal and to his breakdown.
and Alma are invited to a party at Baron von Merkens' (Edward Josephson)
palace, where everybody claims to love Johan's art - but somehow, they all
seem to only mock him and (mentally) hurt her.
Back at home, Johan tells
Alma his best-kept secret - that he was abused by his father, and later in
life, as a sort of retaliation, he killed a boy who was mocking him.
and Alma are invited to von Merkens once more, but when Alma learns the
occasion is the arrival of Veronica Vogler on the island, she starts a row
in a fit of jealousy ... and he shoots her.
Arriving at the palace
looking for Veronica, Johan has to realize all of its inhabitants are
demons, just there to torture him. And Veronica seems to be the queen of
the demons ...
Johan's shooting left Alma only slightly bruised, but she
pretended to be dead to escape his rage. Later though she goes after him
to save him from whatever fate awaits him - but ultimately she finds him
only dead in the forest ... and since has been blaming herself that she
hasn't tried harder to identify with Johan, so that she could've saved
Fascinating cinematic nightmare that plays with the
conventions of the horror genre and uses its slow pace and its lack of
real highlights to its advantage to give its characters room to unfold and
its mood to shift from slightly odd to totally creepy - and of course,
with a diretor like Ingmar Bergman and actors like Max von Sydow and Liv
Ullmann on the job, you just know the outcome has to be something special
... even if of course the film might seem a bit too brain-heavy for some