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Tricia's retro film reviews: Port of Call

Port of Call


Port of Call is the 1949 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Berman. Gosta witnesses a young woman named Berit try to commit suicide. She fails, but the both of them start a relationship. It turns out that she’s had a hard life, she grew up in a loveless home and is rejected by most of society, including the social workers. After she tells Gosta this, their relationship hits a snag. When she tries to help a friend deal with an abortion, he is asked to help. What will happen next will test their relationship even further.

Surprisingly, this early Bergman film is more emotionally harrowing than Torment or Crisis. Mostly because Berit has hardened her heart. To be fair, her home life sucks and the social worker openly admits that she’s a lost cause, so there’s a plausible reason for it. But she can still take it too far, as when her refusal to tell the police about the illegal abortionist could land her in jail and endanger the lives of desperate women. It’s almost a relief when the movie ends with Berit and Gosta are still together, as the viewer fears that their arguments would break them apart. It seems less like Berit was a sex worker than that she had relationships with young men that the parents did not approve of. While most critics still thinks it is an immature work, it actually does a good job of showing Bergman’s themes of loneliness and alienation. In fact, although it’s not a message film, it makes the very good case that society shouldn’t cast off their “undesirables,” as there is a good chance that they’ll take this message to heart and spiral into self-destruction. Honolulu Bergman fans should at least rent it.

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