A professor in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, Linda H. Rugg has written extensively on Ingmar Bergman.
Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Margareta Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand,
The temptation is to take Bergman’s masterpiece for granted. It is probably the most famous of all those modern, post-Pirandellian films concerned with themselves as works of art. It also contains one of the most truly erotic sequences on film, demonstrating what can be done on screen with told material. An actress named Elizabeth (Liv Ullmann) elects to become silent and is put into the care of Alma (Bibi Andersson), a nurse companion. The actress’s act, we soon learn, has two aspects: it is a wish for ethical purity, but it is also a species of sadism, a virtually impregnable position of strength from which to manipulate her nurse, who is charged with the burden of talking. By the end of the film, the two characters are engaged in a desperate Strindberg-like duel of identities, and Bergman has turned that struggle into a metaphor for the fate of language, art, and consciousness itself.