I'm not sure if knowing that Ingmar Bergman wrote and directed this piece while he was breaking up with the lead actress, Liv Ullmann, helped or hurt my opinion of this film. Set on an island in Sweden, The Passion of Anna takes us through a surprisingly love affair that occurs between two neighbors, Anna and Andreas.
The color and photography are gorgeous, and the acting is brilliant, but I really did not take to Bergman's deconstructionist devices, such as intercutting with the real-life actors talking about their characters, nor did I appreciate or care about the subplot of someone committing acts of animal cruelty on the island.
What most fascinated me throughout this story was the intensity of the two lead characters. While they were not particularly intensely in love with each other, they both brought their own past intensities with them to this new relationship. I love great character studies, and this movie did not disappoint here.
While Andreas pines for the wife that left him, Anna's over-zealous faith in humanity and her madness makes it hard to take your eyes off of her. My favorite part of this film was the scene in which Andreas and Anna confess to each other that they are no longer in love, and that there is a wall now that has built up between them. As Andreas was spilling out some of the most gorgeous dialog I've yet seen in a movie, I couldn't help but think of Bergman own voice, as he is attempting to explain to Liv Ullmann that he cares for her, but can no longer be a part of her.
This movie rotates between beautiful, harsh, violent, and painful. I found it at times interesting and poetic, and other times boring and distasteful. Max von Sydow is immensely talented, and delivered difficult dialog as easily and beautifully as if he'd written it himself.
Definitely not my favorite film of Bergman's, though we can all relate to the pain, struggle, defiance and eventual acceptance of a relationship coming to it's end.