After the Rehearsal Review
This latter-period Bergman entry from 1984 may not rank as one of the Swedish director’s essential pictures, but with its self-referential set-up and confessional tone there’s still plenty to engage fans of misery and despair.
Set entirely on a single theatre stage following a production rehearsal, the film finds controlling theatre director Henrik Vogler (Josephson) reminiscing about former actress, alcoholic and lover Rakel (Thulin), who we later see appear on stage to confront him. Most of the film is taken up with another confrontation – that of Henrik and Rakel’s daughter Anna (Olin), who has also become an impassioned young actress and who despises the memories she has of her now deceased mother.
With its constricting setting and guilt-ridden dialogue, After the Rehearsal is hard work even by Bergman’s standards. At the same time it’s also one of Bergman’s most personal films, with the character of Henrik a clear mouthpiece for Bergman himself. “I’m not personal – I observe, register and control,” Henrik says at one point – and if that’s the case with many his pictures Bergman (who was also a prolific theatre director) is least trying to be open and honest with his audience here, albeit in an often inscrutable manner. The results come dangerously close to a protracted wallow in self-pity at times as the film slowly explores the personal sacrifices made in the name of art and the damaged relationships that come with the territory.
After the Rehearsal isn’t one of Bergman’s most arresting or powerful pictures, but at 72 minutes the film at least strips his thematic concerns down to basics. You’ll probably need the patience for several viewings before you can piece together exactly what the director is trying to say, but as usual the acting is first rate and Bergman handles emotional confrontation like nobody else.
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