From the Life of the Marionettes

(TV movie)
  • USA From the Life of the Marionettes (more)


Made during his self-imposed exile in Germany, Ingmar Bergman’s From the Life of the Marionettes offers a lacerating portrait of a destructive marriage and a complex psychological analysis of a murder. Businessman Peter nurses fantasies of killing his wife, Katarina, until a prostitute becomes his surrogate prey. In the aftermath of the crime, Peter and Katarina’s psychiatrist and others attempt to explain its roots. Jumping back and forth in time, this compelling film moves seamlessly between seduction and repulsion, and the German cast is superb. (Criterion)


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English The nonlinear narrative structure revolving around a fatal moment serves not only to enliven the story and deepen our understanding of the characters. As well as disrupting our chronological perception of the plot, it distorts and relativizes the subjective accounts of the characters involved. I am referring in particular to the friend-psychiatrist whose seemingly objective assessment of the entire tragedy can too easily be mistaken for the key to the whole film. Years of pent-up frustration and complexes from the past, as well as hidden natures, provide a neat framework for explaining some of the crises in contemporary life. However, in this case, one should not forget about the more personal and, in my opinion, the main storyline of the protagonist, i.e., his dysfunctional relationship with his wife. Love, the desire to merge two identities, the longing for complete insight into the other person on the one hand, a constant urge to pull away, and a desire to hurt on the other. And the solution? The protagonist finds the answer in his dream (spoiler: "She turned to the mirror. She's watching me in the mirror. She is lost in her thoughts but breathing heavily. I stand behind her, at an angle... holding a razor in my right hand. She has been watching me the whole time. And now she really sees me." And now she really sees me. They could only "really see each other" at the cost of death, which an innocent victim ultimately paid by chance). ()

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