A Ship to India
A hunchback officer competes with his father for the affections of a beautiful music hall artiste.
"When I had finished A Ship Bound for India, I was swimming in euphoria. It was great. I thought I was terrific, just as good as the French directors who were my idols."Ingmar Bergman in Images
About the film
Martin Söderhjelm's stage play Skepp till Indialand was first performed at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki on 23 October 1946, and later had its Swedish première in the small town of Katrineholm, south of Stockholm.
Ingmar Bergman writing on the genesis of the film in Images: My Life in Film:
Lorens Marmstedt came back with another project, again for Sweden's Folkbiografer: a play by the Finnish-Swedish author Martin Söderhjelm, A Ship Bound for India. The author had written his own screenplay, but it was unusable. Lorens suggested that he and I go to Cannes. I would write the screenplay, and he would play roulette. In between we could eat and drink well and meet ladies suitable to the purpose. We had a good time. I lived in a small room on the top floor of the Hotel Majestic with a view of the railway and two fire wall and wrote like one obsessed. In less than two weeks the screenplay was finished. There were not many words left of Martin Söderhjelm's play.
Shooting the film
Shooting began on A Ship Bound for India on 28 May 1947, and came to an end on 16 July the same year.
Bergman in Images:
"Before we had time to reflect, we were in production. This time I had, against Marmstedt's whishes, insisted that Gertrud Fridh would play the female lead. She was highly talented but not a conventional beauty by any means. Lorens became alarmed when he saw her screen test and demanded that her makeup be redone. The result was that she looked like a cheap whore in some French melodrama."
Ship to India was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1948, where it caught the favourable attention of French critics.
Bergman in The Magic Lantern:
I myself thought I had made a magnificent film. I was terribly proud of it. Lorens Marmstedt, who had produced it, wasn't sure what he should think, but he took the film down to Cannes, showed it to various buyers and called home saying: 'You have to cut at least 400 metres, it's far too boring.' But I loved every single metre of this masterpiece equally well.
Just before the premiere everything was last minute as usual, and on that wretched evening the copy came direct from the lab to the cinema. I was there with Stina Bergman, Hjalmar's widow, who had previously been my boss in the script department at SF and I'd travelled up from Gothenburg where I was working at the City Theatre, having promised to be on the first plane back there in the morning. Well, the film starts and the sound is wrong. I rush out and bang on the door of the machine room, yet nothing happens. Back in the stalls I now discover that the fourth act is being shown before the third, so once again I'm standing outside that damned metal door to the machine room that nobody wants to open for me, screaming and bawling. And this at a time when critics actually went to premieres and then back to their newspapers to write their copy. When the film finally came to an end there was a ridiculously long period of silence, and then we went off to drown our sorrows at a place (the restaurant Gondolen) next to the Katarina Lift, and that was actually the only time that I've drunk so much that I don't remember a single thing. I was woken up by a newspaper boy treading over me in a doorway on Artillerigatan. I went out onto the street, flagged down a taxi and went straight to Bromma airport.
When I got to the tiny waiting room, who should be sitting there, well-dressed, smelling good, fresh and awake, reading the morning papers that all contained ghastly executions of my film, but Hasse Ekman, and with him an Eva Henning, beautiful as a Lady's Mantle*. I myself smelt of God only knows what, looked like shit and was the spitting image of the Great Failure. I sat at one end of the waiting room praying they wouldn't notice me. But Hasse came up to me and said 'Some of the reviews are bloody awful – but then again, the film wasn't too good either.' 'It would at least have been better if the acts had been in the right order,' I said. 'Are you sure about that?' he said. And we laughed together. Then he sat down beside me, and that actually felt rather good.
* A flower of the genus Alchemilla, relatively common in Sweden.
- The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
- Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.
- Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern.
C B-n in Dagens Nyheter:
I have to say that the play left a far more concerted impression than the film. Partly because it was so intensively concentrated on the salvage vessel and all its decrepitude in the darkness of night. The dreams of India were in some way both more beautiful and more intense when set against this grey background of hopeless gloom. The film, on the other hand, is so disjointed; the dream of India is little more than an episode which would have slipped by completely unnoticed had it not been associated with the title of the film. [... ]
But every now and again something very Ingmar Bergmanesque radiates from certain scenes. As soon as he gets a chance to mention the theatre his tone becomes so tender and ironical, and he skilfully understands how to milk the fact that his Sally is a music hall performer: heaven knows, the best scenes in the film are those of that tiny stage and its surroundings. That is where Ingmar Bergman does what the French enjoy. And he is a wizard once he makes his mark above all the clamouring.
Artur Lundkvist in Bonniers Litterära Magasin:
The essence of the film lies in the self assertion of the young, reserved characters, in fresh impulses and events that transcend stagnant reverie and unhealthy angst fixation.
The narrative unfolds in what are often dark and suggestive images, where the light from the horizon at sea occasionally bursts through. The storyline is at times unclear and fumbling, slackening off between the narrative peaks. The narrative framework is fairly unnecessary, weighing the film down with an obvious feeling of obligation. Around the fairground and musical hall scenes there is a joyful whirl that feels particularly spontaneous. The film does exhibit vigour and talent, but as a whole it is not particularly successful. What is more, the sound is poor, gravely sabotaging the dialogue.
"Martin Söderhielm's 'Ship to India' was a bad play. But it did have a subject, and it is this subject that Ingmar Bergman has got to grip with and developed in his screen adaptation, so that the film is considerably better than the play."
Nils Beyer in Morgontidningen
Bateau pour les Indes (France)
Éternel mirage (France)
Laiva Intiaan (Finland)
Land of Desire (USA)
The Land of Desire (Great Britain)
Llueve sobre nuestro amor (Spain)
Nave per l'India (Italy)
Le port des filles perdues (France)
Schiff nach Indialand (West Germany)
A Ship to India (Great Britain)
Ship to India (USA)
Skip til Indialand (Norway)
Production country: Sweden
Swedish distributor (35 mm): Svenska AB Nordisk Tonefilm
Production company: Lorens Marmstedt, Sveriges Folkbiografer AB
Original work: Skepp till Indialand (Play) by Martin Söderhjelm
Aspect ratio: 1,37:1
Colour system: Black and white
Sound system: Optical mono
Original length (minutes): 98
Age limit: 15 years and over
Length: 2690 metres
Release date: 1947-09-22 Royal, Stockholm, Sverige, 98 minutes
AB Sandrew-Ateljéerna, Stockholm
Gröna Lund, Stockholm
Alternative title: Kom hem, du vackra gosse ...
Composer: Erland von Koch
Lyrics: Gardar (Pseudonym)
Singer: Gertrud Fridh
Mark Sandberg, 1996:
A salvage boat provides the claustrophobic but fascinating space for this narrative of filial revolt against a corrupt and overbearing father. Actor Birger Malmsten, to whom Bergman usually turned when he needed the depiction of a tortured adolescent, plays the hump-backed Johannes, cowed by his father's brutality as captain of the ship. The atmosphere Bergman creates on the waterfront, intentionally reminiscent of Marcel Carné's French films, led André Bazin to enthuse about this film's "world of blinding cinematic purity."
Breaking up the intentionally cramped composition and side lighting of the scenes on board are scenes from two more liberating spaces: the cabaret where the captain's mistress Sally performs, and a deserted windmill where Johannes takes Sally after the two of them fall in love. This sequence depicts an idyllic extra-narrative refuge from the troubled patriarchal universe that dominates Bergman's early films. The title of the film suggests something of the same, India standing in conceptually as the place outside society (and Oedipal narrative structures) where relationships are more fulfilling and natural.
- Holger Löwenadler
- Anna Lindahl
- Birger Malmsten
- Gertrud Fridh
- Naemi Briese
- Hjördis Petterson
- Lasse Krantz
- Jan Molander
- Erik Hell
- Åke Fridell
- Douglas Håge
- Peter Lindgren
- Gustaf Hiort af Ornäs
- Rolf Bergström
- Ingrid Borthen
- Amy Aaröe
- Gunnar Nielsen
- Svea Holst
- Otto Moskovitz
- Uno Larsson
- Ingmar Bergman
- Charles White
- John W. Björling
- Rosalie Björklund
- Torgny Anderberg
- P.A. Lundgren, Art Director
- Per Lönndahl, Boom Operator
- Göran Strindberg, Director of Photography
- Alva Lundin, Titles
- Tage Holmberg, Film Editor
- Sven Josephson, Production Mixer
- Lars Nordberg, Production Mixer
- Erland von Koch, Music Composer
- Allan Ekelund, Production Manager / Production Coordinator
- Gerd Osten, Script Supervisor
- Anna Lindahl