"One of the most ambitious debuts since CITIZEN KANE." Kenneth Tynan, The Observer
"Stunning, frank, bold and beautiful... Has much of the moods of Bergman (and) a Fellini-like fascination." World Journal Tribune
"There is a degree of sexual openness about this picture that goes farther than most." New York Post
For her feature film directing debut, actress Mai Zetterling turned to Agnes von Krusenstjernas controversial masterpiece of Swedish feminist literature, The Misses von Pahlen, an intense and personal 7-part novel has been likened to the great works of D.H. Lawrence.
As three pregnant women from different backgrounds wait to have their babies in a hospital in Stockholm at the outbreak of the Great War, they relive their childhood and youthful experiences via individual flashbacks.
Drawing on the classic Ingmar Bergman style of Swedish filmmaking and collaborating with many of his favorite actors as well as the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Zetterling has produced a powerful fusion of personal emotional drama and a commentary on the role of women in a society in moral decline.
gets presented as a naughty Scandinavian art film from the 1960s, but woe unto anyone who comes looking for titillation from this complex, sardonic, and often brutally frank film! The movie starts with three pregnant women in a hospital and flashes back to how each came to be there, culminating in a Midsummer celebration at a wealthy estate that--in its fluid visual style and scathing view of human relations--is reminiscent of Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game
. "30 seconds of heaven for 30 years of hell," snaps an arrogant obstetrician; "Men always let you down," mutters a bitter wife in front of her young, wide-eyed daughter; "Marriage--it's like falling asleep for the rest of your life," muses Angela, the youngest and most innocent of the pregnant trio. Mai Zetterling's stunning directorial debut has been criticized as overly influenced by her countryman Ingmar Bergman, but though Zetterling shares many of Bergman's themes, she strips away his ponderous portentousness. Bergman's camera is like the eye of a disappointed God, coating everything with layer of bleak guilt. Zetterling feels her characters' struggles are their own business; she watches them with a skeptical empathy, melancholy but tinged with hope. A rich, rewarding, and unjustly neglected film. This dvd release also includes Zetterling's outstanding 15-minute short film The War Game
. --Bret Fetzer