Television, 1984

After the Rehearsal

Elderly director stages a Strindberg play and talks to his actresses.

"[...] After the rehearsal was meant to be a pleasant title episode on my road toward death."
Ingmar Bergman in Images

About the film

Bergman writing on the genesis of the film in Images: My Life in Film

Originally, I imagined the film as a correspondence between an aging director and a young actress. I began writing it but found it boring before long; it would be more fun to see them.

While I wrote, I must have hit a sore nerve or, if you like, an underground vein of water. From my watery unconscious, twisted vines and strange weeds shot up; everything grew into a witch's porridge. Suddenly there appeared the director's former mistress, who is the mother of the young actress. She has been dead for years, and yet she enters the play. On the dark, empty stage of the theater during the quiet hour between four and five in the afternoon, much can return to haunt you. The result of this brewing was a piece of dramatic television that is about life in the theater.[...]

After the Rehearsal was written expressly for the joy of materializing it together with Sven Nykvist, Erland Josephson, and Lena Olin. I have always followed Lena with tenderness and professional interes. Erland has been my friend for fifty years. Sven is Sven. If once in a while I miss working in a film, it really is just the collaboration with Sven that I miss.

So After the rehearsal was meant to be a pleasant title episode on my road toward death. We planned to keep the team small. We would rehearse for three weeks, and Sven would film it. We would work in Filmhuset (Film House) and the set was to be so simple.


Shooting the film

Bergman did not recall the filming with pleasure. In Images: My life in Film:

To my surprise, the shooting was completly joyless. Seeing After the Rehearsal now, I find it much better than I had remembered. When you have struggled with a bad shoot, the dispiritedness lingers. It makes you remember the film with greater distaste than necessary. One frustration I felt concerned a scene with Ingrid Thulin, truly one of the great movie actress of our time. As a jelaous colleague expressed it once: 'She is married to the camera.' But in this film she couldn't distance herself from her part. When she would say the line 'Do you thing that my instrument is destroyed forever?' she would begin to cry. I told her, 'Please don't sentimentalize!' To me, it seemed natural for her to say the line with cool observance. Instead she burst out crying every time. Finally I gave up. Perhaps I was upset with Ingrid because I was angry with myself. 'Is my instrument destroyed forever?' The question seemed to concern me more than it did her.

Add to this the fact that Erland Josephson was overworked. For the first time during our long collaboration, he was hit by what the Germans call Textangst (which literaly means text anxiety – having trouble learning and remembering lines). The last and most important day brought short-circuiting and blackouts. We muddle through, but that was all.

Lena Olin kept her presence of mind, and in spite of being relatively inexperienced, she managed gallantly without leting herself be disturbed by our turmoil.


Epilogue 

Bergman in Images

'After the Rehearsal, in the final edited version, ran one hour and twelve minutes. I had been forced to cut at least twenty minutes of the final material. Today it is hard to believe that After the Rehearsal was actually written as a bit of a black comedy with dialogue in harsh yet twenty minutes of the finished material.'

The film was made for television, and the fact that it was given cinema distribution abroad was to prove controversial. Prior to the scheduled cinema screenings in America, Bergman sent a telex to the US distributor, Triumph Films, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. In it he explained that it was contrary to his wishes that After the Rehearsal should be launched as a feature film, since he had previously stated that Fanny and Alexander was to be his last feature. Triumph Films, however, pointed out that a contract signed by the film's producer, Jörn Donner, gave them the television, video and cinema rights to the film, so the issue from their point of view was done and dusted.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.

Collaborators

  • Erland Josephson, Henrik Vogler, stage director
  • Ingrid Thulin
  • Lena Olin
  • Nadja Weiss
  • Bertil Guve
  • Anna Asp, Art Director
  • Ulf Björck, Gaffer
  • Sven Nykvist, Director of Photography
  • Lars Karlsson, Assistant Cameraman
  • Eva Ivarsson, Unit Manager
  • Sylvia Ingemarsson, Film Editor
  • Lenamari Wallström, Assistant Costume Designer
  • Inger Pehrsson, Costume Designer
  • Owe Svensson, Production Mixer
  • Bo Persson, Production Mixer
  • Nils Melander, Color Timer
  • Bengt Lundgren, Key Grip
  • Jörn Donner, Producer
  • Katinka Faragó, Production Manager / Production Coordinator
  • Eva Bergman, Assistant Director
  • Kaj Larsen, Property Master
  • Kerstin Eriksdotter, Script Supervisor
  • Anna-Lena Melin, Make-up Supervisor
  • Arne Carlsson, Still Photographer
  • Lars-Owe Carlberg, Other Crew
  • Ingmar Bergman, Screenplay