A brief plot description is impossible. On one level this is a tale of Elizabeth, a famous actress (Liv Ullmann), who suddenly, in the middle of a performance, finds herself bereft of speech. Her only refuge is laughter....
While recovering from this mental collapse, she is cared for by Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) who must not only care for her, but talk for her as well. And think for her. The two personalities slowly begin to merge.
On one level this is one of Bergman's most mysterious, even inaccessible movies, full of ambiguity and uncertainty. On another level it's full of austere beauty and of strange allusion -- the meaning under the so-called 'plot' is elusive. Perhaps there is no real underlying meaning at all, except the meaning you bring to it yourself .. and that can change with each viewing.
The simplest 'meaning', if you must have a meaning, is that this is a cinematographic re-rendering of Herman Hesse's novel 'Narziss and Goldmund', in which the two characters should be seen as separate parts of the same personality. Are Nurse Alma and patient Elizabeth really discrete individuals at all? Maybe not. Make up your own mind.
The film, although made in 1966, still comes across as strikingly modern. Part of this appeal is the timeless photography of Sven Nykvist, whose tones of blacks and greys against pure whites are stylistically superb, and reminiscent of American photographer Richard Avedon's shimmering portraits from that era.
See it. Ponder it. This is a movie that deserves close study.
The transfer is first-class; the blacks, whites and greys are beautifully delineated, and the image is simply stunning. Sound is adequate -- there's nothing special needed in that department.
There are no extra features at all, apart from six previews for other Accent shows. Of these, Fritz Lang's 'M' and F.W. Murnau's 'Sunrise' are of most interest; the others are for 'Bus 174', 'Fallen Angels' and 'The Short Films of Francois Ozon'.