Endings: Anna’s Passion

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It’s always interesting to watch those films in a director’s oeuvre that seem to have slipped through the cracks – the critically overlooked films, the ones that are overlooked and underrated. It may seem surprising that such films exist in Bergman’s oeuvre, yet The Touch, made in 1970, is one example, and The Passion of Anna, made the year before, is another.

Called A Passion in Europe, Bergman had to change the title for American distribution. It’s unclear why he chose The Passion of Anna, saying only, “Anna is at the heart of the film.” And yet Anna – a woman reeling from the loss of her husband and child in a car accident – ​​disappears from the narrative for the middle part, and Andreas, the divorcee with whom she begins an affair, appears as the central character. . It’s his path we follow, from the seemingly satisfied owner in the opening sequence, fixing the roof of his chalet, to literal disintegration. This is the same cottage Eva and Jan live in in Shame (1968).

There is reason to consider the three films that Bergman shot successively in 1968-69 as forming a loose trilogy: L’Heure du loup, La Honte, La Passion d’Anna. All are set on Fårö, star Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann as the central couple (Bergman’s only films with both actors), and in each we hear Bach’s Partita No. 3. They are also all concerned by the precariousness of the home. In each film, the core couple’s relationship and connectedness is seriously tested by intrapsychic, interpersonal, and external strains, resulting in the destruction of the relationship as an emotional focus.

Anna’s Passion (1969)

What’s immediately striking about Anna’s Passion is that it’s in color – Bergman’s only previous film was All These Women (1964) – and gives the images a sensual warmth, especially the interiors. , unlike austere cottages. of the Hour of the Wolf and Shame.

It’s clear that some continuity exists between Shame, which follows a husband and wife in an isolated house during a civil war, and A Passion. Bergman said that “the War of Shame continues in A Passion”, but we have to assume that he is referring to the emotional battle, because there is no war in A Passion. He does, however, directly quote Shame in Anna’s dream sequence: starting on the refugee boat in which we last saw Ullmann’s character at the end of Shame, arriving ashore and seeking shelter, which is denied him. Excluded, seen as an unwelcome intruder, the dream depicts her emotional homelessness.

Anna and Andreas eventually become a couple, but in a very difficult and precarious partnership. A voiceover tells us that they have been living together for a year “in relative harmony”.

As always with Bergman, the apparent harmony is short-lived. Andreas is troubled by the memory of a passionate sexual encounter with a previous lover. In the next scene, played in the dark, he says to her, “I can’t reach you. I excluded myself. It’s too late. I want to find my loneliness again. She understands, perhaps because she lives in the same state of mind. They can only occupy connecting rooms. For Andreas, and perhaps also for Anna, freedom rhymes with loneliness and human contact is toxic.

Anna’s Passion (1969)

In the end, as the two characters have had to face the reality of their murderous impulses towards each other, they find themselves together in a car, with Anna at the wheel. Andreas says: “I want to be free” and again: “I want to find my loneliness again. Like an Ibsen character, he tells her that his notion of “living in the truth” is “a horrible deception”. He gets out of the car and the final scene is of a lone figure, Andreas, in a long shot, framed behind desolate marshland. Anna leaves. Andreas paces back and forth across the frame, distant, desperate and anguished. The camera slowly zooms in on him, he falls to the ground, half-crouched, and the frame whitens and blurs, as Andreas disappears into the grain. He became King Lear’s description of Edgar, “a man of no accommodation…a poor naked forked creature,” and then nothing at all. The seemingly satisfied owner we meet at the start of the film has now lost everything, including himself.

“This time his name was Andreas Winkelman,” the voiceover intones, echoing the one that opens the film – “His name is Andreas Winkelman, 48” – and suggesting that his plight is somehow universal. The men von Sydow plays in these three films aren’t the same – or even versions of the same – character, but they do share similar anxieties that ultimately make life intolerable. The emotional storm of human contact reduced Andreas to dust. A passion destroyed him.