Sawdust and Tinsel, along with Summer with Monika (both of which released in the same year), remains as one of Bergman’s best works from his earlier (pre-The Seventh Seal) days, though, unlike the latter, it was mostly rejected by the critics and audience alike upon its release. This was a dark and brooding meditation on hopelessness, frustrations and desperations of the members of a traveling circus, whose lives are pathetically stuck in a vicious circle. The movie starts with the chronicling, in flashback, of the sadly funny tale of a mime joker, whose powdered face and clumsy attire contrast with his inner sadness, compounded by the callous cruelty of the outside world. The focus then shifts to the film’s two principal protagonists – Albert (Ake Gronberg), the circus’ world-weary boss who longs to settle down with his estranged wife and son, and his jealous mistress Anne (Harriet Andersson), a coquettish and voluptuous young girl who hopes to earn some quick buck by stupidly yielding to a sly local theatre actor. Both the leads gave excellent and nuanced turns, with Gronberg being especially explosive in his portrayal of a man who is imploding from every angle, and yet unable escape his vacuous existence. His first association with his famed long-term collaborator Sven Nykvist, the stark and expressionistic B/W photography filled the movie with a relentless sense of doom and bleakness that would farm a hallmark in a number of his more renowned later works. The script, however, veered towards excess melodrama and hysteria at times, and the near-static content and overtly gloomy nature made it quite a demanding watch.
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama