The Touch (1971)

The Touch (1971)
  • 1514
  • R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1971 ()
  • Running time: 115 min
  • Original Title: The Touch
  • Voted: 1514

A seemingly happy Swedish housewife and mother begins an adulterous affair with a foreign archaeologist who is working near her home. But he is an emotionally scarred man, a Jewish survivor from a concentration camp who found refuge in the U.S.,and, consequently, their relationship will be painfully difficult.

1Elliott GouldDavid Kovac
2Bibi AnderssonKarin Vergerus
3Max von SydowAndreas Vergerus
4Sheila ReidSara Kovac
  • Good Film With a Bad Reputation by 9

    I've heard a lot of things about this film -- it generally gets low reviews, is described as "unBergmanesque", and the fact that its so difficult to find led me have very low expectations for the film. I expected something between the atypical Bergman plot of "The Serpent's Egg" and the disturbing social violence of "From the Life of the Marionettes." I finally tracked down a copy, poor in quality, and expected mediocrity at best when I put it in.

    After having just finished watching it, I can say I was very pleasantly surprised with the film. A lot of the things said about it are just plain false -- the plot is very much in keeping with Bergman's other material. A married woman, Karin (Anderson), falls in love with a disturbed architect, David (Gould), and the two begin an emotionally confused love affair. Karin is caught between her happy bourgeois life with her husband (Sydow) and children, and her passionate, unconventional relationship with David. Acting in bad faith, Karen refuses to choose between her two lives, though both David and her husband eventually push the decision on her. Like most Bergman films, its a psychological roller coaster and a bleak portrayal of the coarseness of human relationships.

    Bibi Anderson does a wonderful job in a very difficult role, and Max von Sydow plays the part of the honest and good intentioned husband very well, playing hard on the viewer's sympathies. The stiff performance of Gould echoes that of Carradine in "The Serpent's Egg," so it must unfortunately be attributed to Bergman's struggle with directing in English, not on Gould himself. If I recall, the film was made in both Swedish and English, both versions filmed at once, which poses obvious production difficulties which might account from the some times mechanical treatment of the script.

    The film has an excellent pace to it, and moves very swiftly and smoothly, wonderfully shot by Nykvist in a way very similar to "The Passion of Anna." Unlike a lot of Bergman's depressing work in the 1970s, I felt good about the film when it was over.

    I don't know why this film has such a poor reputation -- I'm very much baffled after having seen it. My guess is the obvious mistake of having made it in English accounts for most of this.

    Its seems a lot like Bergman's other work in this period. Very Good.

  • Under-rated: this is one of the more potent Bergman romantic dramas I've seen... by 7

    ...and I think part of the reason for that is, aside from some notable uses of symbolism (some subtle, some not so subtle, in part due to the photography), the story is rather simple. This gives Bergman room to try and get us to understand these characters. In lessor hands (or rather, hands not as proficient in the soul-searching drama as Bergman is) this could be almost a TV melodrama. But I would disagree with some critics- notably with Ebert- that Bergman has lost his tone with this picture. In some ways it is more modernly set than some of his other films (and that it is in English sets it apart from some of his trademark Svensk Filmindustri pictures), however it doesn't hurt it terribly so. There were times while watching the film, mostly in the first fifty minutes, that I thought this was one of Bergman's best, by giving his control somewhat over to the actors, who are all sensational. While it doesn't quite live up towards the end, and feels abruptly finished, the climax doesn't feel too compromised. The Touch is like the Adrian Lyne film (which draws itself from a Chabrol film) Unfaithful, only this film seems a little more steeped in reality than outright sexuality.

    Karin (Bibi Andersson, one of Bergman's key actresses) lives a rather calm, routine life with her husband Andreas (Max von Sydow) and their two children. After her mother dies (which I suppose sets up her emotional indecisiveness for the film), she meets David (Elliot Gould), and the two slowly begin an affair. But David is not the most stable of people, and it shakes Karin up at first. Soon they fall in love, but are separated, the sort of usual machinations with an infidelity story begin to unfold, and yet not losing the emotions from before. The three key actors of the film, Andersson, Von Sydow, and Gould, seem to live in these characters, and especially Gould (for whom this would be his only role with the director) conveys a sort of double nature that is also within Karin. His performance is one that I would put in a list of his best- you can tell everything he wants and fears in his face and actions, within the careful framing, this is a man on the edge. Bergman had once described Gould as a "difficult" actor to work with, but that tension came out the right way on screen, at least from my perspective.

    As I mentioned, in lessor hands this could become a further melodrama, and part of the films refusal to subvert to that category is a credit to not only Bergman, but to cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Whenever I see a film with their collaboration (or even if it's Nykvist with, perhaps, a lessor director), I always watch for how Nykvist moves the camera. How seamlessly he follows these characters, and in their darkest recesses he lights them like the light and control on their faces is part of the writing. A lot of times (appropriately so) one may not even feel the presence of the camera, as if Nykvist doesn't even have a technique. But it is here where not only does he and Bergman go with their touches of light and dark, they also go for a documentary feel in the production.

    Basically, this is an experiment for Bergman, as it is for his fans to endure. He's experimenting with a genre done hundreds of times, he experiments with music (unlike some of his dramas, which includes Bach or Mozart, here it's kind of pop-sounding for the period), and he experiments with his cast this time around. Is it as powerful and awe-inspiring as his "trilogy" or his other great works? Probably not. But it is unfortunately panned down as a lessor work of his, which isn't necessarily true. The film also needs to be seen by more people of today, as it is virtually impossible to buy on video or DVD. A-

  • The Two Lives of a Married Woman by 8

    In a small town in Sweden, Karin Vergerus (Bibi Andersson) is a middle-class housewife, married with Dr. Andreas Vergerus (Max von Sydow) and having a son and a daughter. She meets the disturbed German-American Jewish architect David Kovac (Elliott Gould), who is restoring a church in her town, and has recently become friend of her husband. David has drinking and smoking problems and after a dinner party at the Vergerus's home, he confesses his infatuation for Karin to her. This declaration revives her sensuality and femininity, which were forgotten after fifteen years of stable and loyal marriage. Karin has an affair with David, tearing apart her world: in one side, she has the stability and safety of her boring marriage and bourgeois life, and in the other side, she has the freedom of the relationship with her lover. She has lots of difficulties to decide the course of her life. This magnificent open end film is another wonderful work of Ingmar Bergman, his first English spoken movie. Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow and Elliott Gould have again outstanding performances in a touching story about a thirty-four years woman divided in two possible lives and without knowing how to decide the way to be followed. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): `A Hora do Amor' (`The Hour of the Love')

  • An interpretation: love as puppeteer by 8

    It's the story of a married woman falling in love with another man. The married couple - Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson - does live in fine rapport, their personalities matching well. Both are quiet, contemplative, and very rational persons, not liable to act spontaneous. The intruder - Elliott Gould - on the idyll which they embody together with their teenaged daughter is in contrast an impetuous man, uncompromising, overbearing, and tormented by inner contradictions and compulsions. Andersson tells him at one point that he hates himself. The two clandestine lovers aren't appropriate for each other. They have difficulties to accept the other's social behaviour and stance and don't like it to lie to their environments. But soon they cannot live without each other anymore.

    The point of the film cannot be to show how two contrary characters complement each other, as Andersson was even more happy with von Sydow before and because it's all told in such a detached manner. The portrait of a love would like to involve the spectators to convey the joy and pain of it. Instead the question why Andersson turns away from von Sydow toward Gould seems intentionally perplexing. The dialogues and acting of the lovers is cerebral and cold, as if they were reciting dazedly on a stage, astounding themselves with their actions and feelings. As if they were actuating on an impulse isolate from their personalities. This impulse or drive is not eros, as especially at the beginning of their affaire sex is more a problem than a fulfilment to these two diffident lovers. Maybe love or the need to feel and give love is itself such a drive, an autonomous thing asserting itself regardless of the circumstances and the characters involved.

    The central metaphor of the film is a medieval wooden statue of Mary, recently excavated after being buried for centuries - like Gould's and Andersson's potential to be lovers or man and woman. But with the disinterment of the Mary there also come alive insect larvae inside her, corroding her from within. Before they meet Gould attempted suicide and Andersson was reduced to a wife. They flower in their new love and it destroys their lives.

    Civilization means in many ways the domestication of our impulses. Therefore Andersson realizes that she must not harm lastingly her family and Gould's hidden wife/sister. This is true. But Gould is telling her that she is lying to herself by not eloping with him and he's right, too.

  • Lesser Bergman but far from bad by 7

    Not one of Ingmar Bergman's- Sweden's greatest director and one of the greats in film history- masterpieces like The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers and Persona. But it was better than I'd heard it was and it beats All These Women and The Serpent's Egg any day. The Touch is wonderfully shot by Sven Nykvist, no surprise as Nykvist's cinematography was always striking, complimenting the gritty yet beautiful locations just as well. There are moments where Bergman's inexperience in bilingual shows but he still directs capably and most thoughtfully with not many signs of heavy-handedness or pretensions if any at all. The music is appropriately atmospheric and takes care not to be intrusive. The story for the first two thirds is touching and mostly compelling, with themes and plot strands that are relatable to anybody going through the same thing, it didn't come across as heavy-handed to me, and have a sense of Bergman's style. Bibbi Anderssen is superb in a very nuanced portrayal, if there was a pick for the best thing about The Touch it would definitely by Anderssen's performance. Max Von Sydow is as enigmatic and stoic as ever, with facial expressions and eye contact that speaks volumes, a very sympathetic performance. The Touch is sadly hurt by mainly Elliot Gould as a rather stiff lead, and the awkward dialogue written for him(Anderssen and Von Sydow are not as badly affected though, though they have had much better material) and padding in the final third particularly that leads to literally nowhere are just as problematic. That is personal opinion though. Overall, not a bad film at all, in fact it is an interesting one especially for Anderssen and the cinematography but Bergman has done much better than this. 7/10 Bethany Cox

1Sven Nykvistcinematographer
2Carl Michael Bellmancomposer
3Peter Coventcomposer
4Jan Johanssoncomposer
5Ingmar Bergmandirector
6Siv Lundgreneditor