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[whitespace] 'Faithless'
Wife Story: While her husband's away, Marianne (Lena Endre) finds herself getting a little too friendly with family friend David (Krister Henriksson).

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The Ullmann-helmed, Bergman-penned 'Faithless' offers more scenes from a marriage

By Richard von Busack

THE WORD "FAITHLESS" is a loaded, melodramatic term to describe an infidelity. The truth is that some marriages beg to die. In the Swedish import Faithless, the word is justified. The film, directed by Liv Ullmann, recounts a love triangle that ends in the wrecking of a marriage. The wreckage starts with a tryst, which turns into a compulsive affair, and leads to a scene of discovery. By the time the marriage is over, there is no hope, no faith left.

The story is heard by an elderly, solitary writer living like a monk by the seaside, "Bergman" (Erland Josephson)-- Faithless' script was written by the Swedish master Ingmar Bergman. We know "Bergman" is a screenwriter because of a projector in the room; when the woman comes to visit him, she stands opposite the machine as if she were part of a movie in "Bergman's" imagination. We began to suspect that this old man may be not just a writer, but the self-exiled survivor of the story he hears told.

And the story is told by Marianne (Lena Endre), a wife and mother in her late thirties, whose beauty is aging, blurring into handsomeness. Her husband Markus (Thomas Hanzon) is an orchestra conductor who goes to Los Angeles for work, leaving wife and daughter behind. While he's gone Marianne and old friend of the family David (Krister Henriksson) have dinner. David makes a clumsy pass over drinks; despite this incident, they make a decision to sleep sexless together "as if we were an old married couple." From looking at David, you can see it's not physical magnetism that attracted Marianne to him. She has some need for chaos in her life. David, a mercurial, bitter man, delivers plenty of it.

It's a cold, clear story, and Endre's performance carries the film. The last third of Faithless seems slow and repetitive; that familiar Scandinavian movie claustrophobia starts to creep into the theater. Endre's sturdy, pale, smooth face starts to fade into the blonde wood of the Swedish-modern cell behind her. Confession is good for the soul, but it's better for the soul of the person confessing than the one listening, and after the second hour elapsed, I began to understand why psychiatrists are so well paid. And as Bergman, Erland Josephson isn't memorable; seeing him, you have to mourn for the thought of what Ingmar Bergman's previous alter-ego Max Von Sydow would have done with the part. In the way the last painful acts of the tragedy pile together, you see that carelessness in the home stretch that bedevils any writer, especially the elder ones.

Even in the shape it's in, Faithless represents a lost cinematic era in which films analyzed, with unsparing rigor, the strains facing a marriage. The movie is a reminder of the kind of cinema that's been dead since . . . .well, since Ingmar Bergman retired. Long and uneven, it's still an unsettling vision of the torment that only the married can inflict upon one another.


Faithless (R; 142 min.), directed by Liv Ullmann, written by Ingmar Bergman, photographed by Jörgen Persson and starring Lena Endre, Erland Josephson, Krister Henriksson and Thomas Hanzon opens Friday at the Towne Theatre in San Jose.

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From the March 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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