Picks and Pans Review: After the Rehearsal

updated 07/02/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ingmar Bergman said that Fanny and Alexander, this year's Oscar winner for best foreign film, would be his last movie. After the Rehearsal, a brilliant fragment of a movie, 72 minutes long and filmed after Fanny and Alexander, was originally shown on Swedish television, but it's powerful on the big screen as well. Set on a stage after rehearsal, the plot concerns a theater director, played by Erland Josephson, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Bergman. He's directing a young, beautiful actress who will do anything to further her career and an aging star who may have had an affair with the director. In fact, the relationships among the three—past and present—are confusing. The young actress, played by Lena Olin in her first major role, seems at times to be the director's daughter from a liaison with the older woman, played by Ingrid Thulin. At one point Josephson and Olin act out what would happen if they had an affair, right there on the stage, as if they were reading for a play. It's a tribute to Bergman's genius that he can control such scenes and keep his camera on his actors' faces in extreme close-up for much of the film without being boring. He did it in such movies as Scenes From a Marriage and Face to Face, and it works here too, thanks in part to his longtime cinematographer, Sven Nykvist. It's hard not to read this bitter portrait of an exploitive, cold man as a scathing self-indictment by Bergman. But then, brutal honesty has been the hallmark of all his work. He's never spared anyone, including himself. (In Swedish with English subtitles) (R)

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