The Touch (1971 film)

The Touch
The Touch (1971 film).jpg
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Lars-Owe Carlberg
Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Elliott Gould
Bibi Andersson
Max von Sydow
Sheila Reid
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Release dates
  • 30 August 1971 (1971-08-30)
Running time
106 minutes
Country Sweden
Language English
Budget $1,200,000[1]
Box office $1,135,000[1]

The Touch (Swedish: Beröringen) is a 1971 drama film directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Elliott Gould, and Sheila Reid. The film tells the story of an affair between a married woman and an impetuous foreigner. The film contains references to the Virgin Mary and Nazi concentration camps.

Produced and distributed by ABC Motion Pictures, it was Bergman's first English language film, but shot on the island of Gotland in Sweden. It received negative reviews and was a box office bomb.

Plot

In a village, Karin Vergerus, married to a man named Andreas with children, visits a hospital where her mother has died. She reacts with sorrow, and is seen by a man named David Kovac, an archaeologist from a foreign country. David visits the couple, and tells them about his work, including the discovery of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. The fact that the statue was brought to the remote village and hidden in a church from the Middle Ages in considered puzzling. He also tells Karin that he fell in love with her the day he saw her at the hospital.

Karin visits David in his home, and after drinking sherry, Karin agrees to have sex with David. She tells him this is her first affair and that she is uncertain if she is in love with him, but it is significant for her. As the affair continues, David becomes overbearing and angry. When she shows up to his home under the influence of alcohol, and having failed to quit smoking as they agreed, he slaps her. He shares his family history with her, telling her many of his relatives were murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Eventually, Andreas visits David, revealing he has been receiving anonymous poison pen letters telling him David is having an affair with Karin. David dismisses the visit as absurd, and denies Andreas' claim that David attempted suicide, though David had earlier confessed the incident was not an accident. In a church, David shows Karin the statue of Mary, telling her it has recently been discovered that a previously unknown species of insect had infested the inside of the statue for 500 years and that the insects are eating it. David leaves for London, and Karin tells Andreas she feels she must go to find out why he left her. Andreas angrily tells her that if she leaves, she cannot return to their marriage, but she goes anyway.

In London, Karin meets a woman named Sara and is surprised to hear Sara say she is David's sister, though he had told Karin he had no family. Sara guesses Karin is pregnant, though Karin refuses to say if the fetus is Andreas or David's. Sara also declares she and David will never separate. Karin leaves, saying she does not think she will return. Later, David and Karin meet in a greenhouse. David tells her he has found life without her intolerable, and that their relationship has changed him, and that he now cares about what happens to him. He says he has accepted a position at a university and asks Karin to come with him, with her children. Karin rejects the offer, citing her "duty" to remain. He accuses her of lying and cowardice as they separate.

Cast

  • Elliott Gould – David Kovac
  • Bibi Andersson – Karin Vergerus
  • Max von Sydow – Andreas Vergerus
  • Sheila Reid – Sara Kovac
  • Margareta Byström – Secretary to Andreas Vergerus (uncredited)
  • Elsa Ebbesen – Hospital Matron (uncredited)
  • Dennis Gotobed – English civil servant (uncredited)
  • Staffan Hallerstam – Anders Vergerus (uncredited)
  • Barbro Hiort af Ornäs – Karin's mother (uncredited)
  • Åke Lindström – Dr. Holm (uncredited)
  • Ann-Christin Lobråten – Museum employee (uncredited)
  • Karin Nilsson – Neighbour (uncredited)
  • Maria Nolgård – Agnes Vergerus (uncredited)
  • Erik Nyhlén – The Archeologist (uncredited)
  • Bengt Ottekil – Bell boy (uncredited)
  • Alan Simon – Therapist at museum (uncredited)
  • Per Sjöstrand – Therapist (uncredited)
  • Aino Taube – Woman on stairs (uncredited)
  • Mimmo Wåhlander – Nurse (uncredited)
  • Carol Zavis – Stewardess (uncredited)

Themes

Paul Scherer at Indiana University South Bend argued the film contains "fairly explicit reference to the Garden of Eden and such related themes as Satan, temptation and the fall."[2] Scherer also noted critic James Gay argued anti-Semitism was vaguely a theme in the film, while Virginia Wexman said the film relied on "poetic imagery."[2]

The statue of Mary also features in the film's themes. The statue has a small smile, and resembles Karin's mother. Bergman had earlier expressed his psychological difficulty distinguishing between wife and mother, and writer Frank Gado argues Karin's mother dying removes the mother from Karin, and allows David to love her.[3] The larvae eating the statue represents David and Karin's fetus.[4]

Production

Development

During a 1964 production in London, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman met Morton Baum, a representative of the American Broadcasting Company, which was launching a film production arm. Bergman concluded a contract with ABC for $1 million.[5] The Touch was Bergman's first English language film,[6] and he viewed it as the first love story film he ever made.[7]

In drawing up his story, Bergman was inspired by the death of his friend, an actor, 15 years previously. The death of his father, Erik Bergman, also informed the visuals of the opening hospital scene. Ingmar Bergman submitted a 56-page film treatment to Baum, which resembled a novella rather than a screenplay.[8]

Filming

Elliott Gould thought it was an honour to be the first American actor in an Ingmar Bergman film, though it could harm his career.

The film was shot on the island of Gotland, as well as at Film-Tcknik Studios in Stockholm and in London, between 14 September and 13 November 1970.[9] Cinematographer employed Sven Nykvist employed Eastmancolor in his shots.[10] Using various shades of make-up, Nykvist took days with Bibi Andersson's test shots.[11] Bergman selected actor Elliott Gould on the basis of his work in Getting Straight.[12] Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman had also been proposed by ABC.[13]

Gould believed Andersson's character was influenced by a woman, Ingrid Karlebo, Bergman was living with at the time, and that the film was semi-autobiographical. Gould also stated that he "got a migraine" when he read the first sex scene in the screenplay, and that he believed the film could potentially harm his career, but felt it was an honour to be the first American actor in a Bergman film. The sex scene was filmed on a real bed, though Bergman had pledged to use a platform.[14] Bergman and Gould spent hours having conversations to help create the film's atmosphere.[15]

Actress Sheila Reid stated Bergman consulted her on how an British apartment should look, and that her scene involved some improvisation. Rehearsals lasted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.[16]

Release

The film opened in New York City on 14 July 1971.[7] It had a wider release on 18 August, and premiered in Stockholm on 30 August.[9] Bergman and Andersson soon after gave an interview on The Dick Cavett Show,[17] and Bergman married Ingrid Karlebo that year.[18] In Sweden, the film was distributed by SF Studios and in the U.S. by ABC.[9] The film screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in July 1971,[19] and in 1972 it played at the Belgrade Film Festival.[20]

The film aired on television in the 1980s. In 2011, the Film Society of Lincoln Center re-released it in theatres in New York City.[14]

Reception

The film earned rentals of $485,000 in North America and $650,000 in other countries. It recorded an overall loss of $1,080,000.[1]

Aside from box office losses, reviews were "generally negative."[2] Roger Ebert gave The Touch two and a half stars, calling it "an unexpected failure of tone from a director to whom tone has usually been second nature," and questioning if language was the issue.[6] In The New York Times, Vincent Canby believed language was the problem, describing the dialogue as "lifeless translations" and the film as dull.[7] Much of the negative attention was directed at Gould.[19] Richard Schickel was favourable, calling the film "as mature, mysterious and disturbing as anything Bergman has done in the last few years."[21] Other favourable reviews were written by Molly Haskell in Village Voice and Jan Dawson in the Monthly Film Bulletin, who wrote it was "probably the most memorable and the most moving portrait of a lady that Bergman has given us."[19] At the Belgrade Film Festival, Andersson won an award for Best Actress.[20]

In 2011, Richard Brody called the film "very rare and very beautiful."[14] However, Robbie Freeling, writing for IndieWire, panned it as "a maligned work that nonetheless betrays the underlying, but univocal idiosyncrasies of its author."[18] Time Out's review states Bergman's "analysis of human relationships is as complex as ever."[22]

References

  1. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses", Variety, 31 May 1973 p 3
  2. ^ a b c Paul Scherer, "The Garden of Eden Theme in Bergman's The Touch," Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1 (WINTER 1985), p. 45.
  3. ^ Frank Gado, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, Duke University Press, 1986, p. 406.
  4. ^ Gado, p. 407.
  5. ^ Jerry Vermilye, Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films, McFarland & Company Publishers, 2002, p. 34.
  6. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (29 September 1971). "The Touch". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Canby, Vincent (15 July 1971). "Bergman's 'Touch' Tells a Love Story". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  8. ^ Richard Meryman, "I live at the edge of a very strange country," Life, 15 October 1971, p. 63.
  9. ^ a b c Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, Amsterdam University Press, 2005, p. 294.
  10. ^ Marc Gervais, Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999, p. 118.
  11. ^ Meryman, p. 74.
  12. ^ Meryman, p. 64.
  13. ^ Meryman, p. 62.
  14. ^ a b c Brody, Richard (8 November 2011). "THE ELLIOTT GOULD TOUCH". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Meryman, p. 73.
  16. ^ Reid, Sheila (31 July 2007). "No one made films like him". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  17. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (14 July 2014). "Happy Birthday, Ingmar Bergman! Watch Vintage 50-Minute Talk With The Director From 1971". IndieWire. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Freeling, Robbie (6 September 2011). "Simply the Worst: Ingmar Bergman's 'The Touch'". IndieWire. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c Steene, p. 295.
  20. ^ a b Steene, p. 297.
  21. ^ Richard Schickel, "Bergman at his deceptive best," Life, 10 September 1971, p. 12.
  22. ^ NAN. "The Touch". Time Out. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 

External links