A Ship Bound for India
(Skepp till Indialand)
Holger Löwenadler, Birger Malmsten, Gertrud Fridh, Anna Lindahl,
A salvage boat provides the claustrophobic but fascinating space for this narrative of filial revolt against a corrupt and overbearing father. Actor Birger Malmsten, to whom Bergman usually turned when he needed the depiction of a tortured adolescent, plays the hump-backed Johannes, cowed by his father’s brutality as captain of the ship. The atmosphere Bergman creates on the waterfront, intentionally reminiscent of Marcel Carné’s French films, led André Bazin to enthuse about this film’s “world of blinding cinematic purity.” Breaking up the intentionally cramped composition and side lighting of the scenes on board are scenes from two more liberating spaces: the cabaret where the captain’s mistress Sally performs, and a deserted windmill where Johannes takes Sally after the two of them fall in love. This sequence depicts an idyllic extra-narrative refuge from the troubled patriarchal universe that dominates Bergman’s early films. The title of the film suggests something of the same, India standing in conceptually as the place outside society (and Oedipal narrative structures) where relationships are more fulfilling and natural.