On the surface this film just seems like another story of two women at a summerhouse retreat and the conflict that arises between the two during their stay, which is nothing tremendously innovative. It wasn?t until I watched it the second time did I really fell in love with it, which is partly do to with the fact that the first time the subtitles were out of sync by half a minute. It was when I watched it the second time and the action matched the dialog that I became aware of what a complex and magnificent story was presented.
The story begins with an actress that suffers a nervous breakdown while on stage and subsequently enters a clinic for treatment. A nurse is assigned to care for the actress so that she may return to the stage. Since her breakdown the actress has completely stopped talking. In the entire film she will only speak once despite being the inadvertent protagonist in the film. Like any other film with two hot Swedish women, they have to go to the countryside to relax with each other, and of course the nurse has to confess her first sex orgy as a teenager. Nothing special about that. The two start off polite, with the nurse very envious of the actress?s big screen life. The nurse, feeling as though she has made a personal connection with the actress, confesses to her a dark secret that she has hid from her husband that is connected to the sex orgy. When the nurse learns that the actress failed to keep her secret confidential, there is a shift away from the polite relationship. The nurse no longer holds the actress on a high pedestal of perfection and innocence. The nurse then goes through a range of emotions from sorrow to rage then to sadness in which she seeks for forgiveness from the actress for her violent outburst during her state of rage. However, this is not the final resolution that one might expect. Another secret is revealed that is equally as dark as the nurse?s secret. It is during this revelation that the audience learns of the actress?s major faults, and through a series of events you learn that while in their public life the two are total opposites that in fact that they are one and the same.
The film starts out with a serious of short clips of seemingly unrelated and confusing events that add the atmosphere and a feeling awkwardness and discomfort that lets the viewer know that all is not well. It also acts as an early hint of the actress?s dark secret, although you are not aware of it at the time thus adding some mystery to the film and makes the latter half that much more magnificent. The true success of this film is that despite taking place in a single environment, with primarily only one character doing all the talking, it still manages to remain a fascinating and engaging experience for the viewer. Furthermore, that the only other character never speaks yet we are still able to get into her personal life and that she still remains a major player in the drama just further illustrates the great skills of Bergman.