Sawdust and Tinsel
(The Naked Night)
Harriet Andersson, Åke Grönberg, Hasse Ekman, Anders Ek,
Bergman’s earliest evocation of the theater of humiliation, Sawdust and Tinsel is a portrait of turn-of-the-century itinerant circus performers who are figures of ritual mortification before their public and, in a day and night of unmasking, before each other as well. The circus owner, Albert (Åke Grönberg), and his bareback-rider girlfriend, Anne (Harriet Andersson), receive rejections from, respectively, an ex-wife and a scornful actor from the more “respectable” provincial theater. Their disgrace and redemption are mirrored in a dreamlike flashback, which in turn finds its resolution in a dream of return and reunion. Through the deus ex machina of the cinema, the film is lifted from its sad subject by extraordinary cinematography in which many a Bergman trope finds its genesis: dressing-room mirrors turn an individual into her own twin, a couple into a complexity of faces, making the search for meaning in another human being a virtual gauntlet. Bergman’s players truly earn their bows.