Feature Film, 1971

The Touch

A doctor's wife embarks on a stormy and passionate relationship with an American archaeologist.

"In previous works, Ingmar Bergman has also created some of the most interesting portraits of women in the cinema. But in The Touch he creates, in my opinion, the most penetrating of them so far [...]."
Theodor Kallifatides in Chaplin

About the film

On the 5th of July 1970 Ingmar Bergman wrote in his workbook: 'I've finished the screenplay, although not without a fair amount of inner resistance. I baptized it The Touch. As good a name as any other. Now I'm going to take time off until August 3, when we begin the preparations in earnest. I feel depressed and ill at ease. I'd be happy to drop this film.'

For his own sake, he should perhaps have done so. Because The Touch is one of the few films with which Bergman is completely dissatisfied. As he puts it in Images: My Life in Film:

The intention was to shoot The Touch in both English and Swedish. In an original version that doesn't seem to exist anymore, English was spoken by those who were English-speaking and Swedish by those who were Swedes. I belive that it just possibly was slightly less unbearable than the totally English-language version, which was made at the request of the Americans.

The story I bungled so badly was based on something extremely personal to me: the secret life of someone who loves becomes gradually the only real life and the real life becomes an illusion.

Bibi Andersson felt instinctively that this part did not suit her. I convinced her to do it anyhow, since I felt I needed a loyal friend in this foreign production. Besides, Bibi has a good command of English. The fact that she became pregnant after having accepted the part threw a terrible monkey wrench into what seemed, on the surface at least, a matter-of-fact, methodical production set. Cries and Whispers began to make its way forward during this depressing period.

Epilogue 

Shooting began on The Touch on 14 September, coming to an end on 13 November 1970.

Prior to its premiere in Sweden, The Touch was screened at the Berlin Film Festival. Swedish critics and journalists reported a disastrous reception, adding some negative comments of their own. The reports caused one of the film's stars, Bibi Andersson, to go on the defensive:
 
One is often tempted to respond to criticism, yet it is best not to do so. Partly because one will never get the last word, and partly because one is wary of being suspected of injured vanity. One's vanity does take a few knocks, so one is fully justified in questioning oneself. But in the light of all the off-the-cuff reviews and gossip written about The Touch in Berlin, my respect for the printed word has diminished and I am emboldened to venture my own views on the film. [...]

First of all, I would like to protest at the claim that the film was booed. I myself stood on the stage to receive the applause, and did not hear one single boo, although I was prepared for the worst. Everyone, critics included, knows that Berlin audiences take a special delight in booing films. Richard Harris is even reported to have booed back, rightly or wrongly – I am not sure which. Perhaps people booed at a different screening from the one I attended. [...]

I am grateful that I only heard positive reactions and was praised, otherwise I would not have dared to go the press conference so willingly. I was so naïve as to be saddened by the fact that I did not see one single Swedish journalist there. One is usually grateful for an encouraging nod or look from a fellow countryman, accustomed as one is to being judged. [...]

The film is 'banal' in the sense of being 'ordinary'. It is about a man, a wife and a lover. I find it strange, on the other hand, that this should be uninteresting. I do not know any woman who has not at some time been touched by Karin's dilemma. Nor any man, for that matter. [...]

So long as we are banal human beings with conflicts that are often banal, I think it would be becoming if we were to embrace banality with at least a smile of recognition.
 

Sources

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

Collaborators

  • Elliott Gould
  • Bibi Andersson
  • Max von Sydow
  • Sheila Reid
  • Barbro Hiort af Ornäs
  • Åke Lindström
  • Mimmo Wåhlander
  • Elsa Ebbesen-Thornblad
  • Staffan Hallerstam
  • Maria Nolgård
  • Karin Nilsson
  • Erik Nyhlén
  • Margaretha Byström
  • Alan Simon
  • Per Sjöstrand
  • Aino Taube
  • Ann-Christin Lobråten
  • Carol Zavis
  • Dennis Gotobed
  • Bengt Ottekil
  • Harry Schein
  • Alf Montán
  • Sture Helander
  • Torsten Ryde
  • Lars-Owe Carlberg
  • Börje Lundh
  • Jan-Carl von Rosen
  • Kenne Fant
  • P.A. Lundgren, Art Director
  • Jan-eric Söderman, First Assistant Cameraman
  • Harry Engholm, Boom Operator
  • Jan Nilsson, Gaffer
  • Gerhard Carlsson, Gaffer
  • Sven Nykvist, Director of Photography
  • Gunnar Fischer, Titles
  • Lotti Ekberg, Unit Manager
  • Siv Lundgren, Film Editor
  • Max Goldstein, Costume Designer
  • Ethel Sjöholm, Costume Designer
  • Lennart Engholm, Production Mixer
  • Berndt Frithiof, Re-recording Mixer
  • William Byrd, Music Composer
  • Peter Covent, Music Composer
  • Carl Michael Bellman, Music Composer
  • Jan Johansson, Musical Arrangement
  • Stig Limér, Key Grip
  • Hans Rehnberg, Key Grip
  • Arne Carlsson, Assistant Director
  • Stefan Bäckström, Property Master
  • Katinka Faragó, Script Supervisor
  • Cecilia Drott, Make-up Supervisor
  • Bo-Erik Gyberg, Still Photographer
  • Kurt Olgar, Other Crew
  • Stefan Carlsson, Other Crew
  • Hans Fredriksson, Other Crew
  • Ingmar Bergman, Screenplay