Sawdust and Tinsel
(The Naked Night)
A professor in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, Linda H. Rugg has written extensively on Ingmar Bergman.
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.