Skip to main content

THE ATONEMENT OF GOSTA BERLING

Sweden, 1923 (MIFF 1956, Porgramme 10)

Director: Mauritz Stiller

Many of the best Swedish films are identified with the work of Stiller and Sjostrom. The novels of Selma Lagerlof provide nearly all the material for their best films, including Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness and Gosta Berling.

Set within a definite period, elaborately staged and dressed, Gosta Berling is concerned with the devout person's position within Church and Sate.

Berling, a minister of religion, is driven out of his parish and leads a life of dissipation. He is taken in charge by the strange mistress of Ekeby castle, whose home is occupied by a horde of merry and drunken ex &ndash: officers. The countess Elizabeth, a beautiful woman (played by Garbo). falls in love with Berling and the story tells of their eventual marriage.

Stiller's interest was less in plot than in character and incident. He employed many new techniques of lighting, photography and composition. Scenes such as that of the sleigh ride where Berling is pursued by wolves, and the burning of Ekeby Hall, were considered unusually effective at the time. But the finest scene of the film is where the mistress of Ekeby seeks out her aged mother and silently begs her forgiveness.

Combining pictorial beauty with psychological complexity, the film achieves a continuity which is emotional rather than physical.

Despite the interest of this early performance of Garbo, who even then possessed a tragic, hieratic quality, the characterisation by Lars Hanson as the Byronic hero and Gerdo Lyndequist as the mistress of Ekeby are more striking. The present version of the film is a much shorter edition than the original.

See also...

Autumn Man

Absurd humour amongst the changing of the seasons as two jinxed, soulless desperadoes try anything for a free cup of coffee. ... More »

BROKEN SKY

The war years of the 1940s have come to the remote districts of Sweden where paths to the other world are narrow and restricted, and where people must rely on themselves alone. Sweden still has ... More »

Jet

Since the dawn of time, man has longed to fly. This film, using the symbolic language of ballet, shows the history of aviation with particular em¬phasis on the principles and construction of jet ... More »

Astrid

Astrid follows an 11-year-old rebelling against her mother and getting an unexpected problem to solve. ... Screens as part of the Swedish Shorts package. ... D Fijona Jonuzi P Emma Kjellander WS ... More »

Eiffel Tower

Stellan Skarsgård stars as a man who dreams of being in Paris during the 1920s, where he searches for the mysteriously absent Eiffel Tower. When he wakes and recounts the dream to his wife, he ... More »

Human Performance and Limitations

This deceivingly simple and humorous documentary challenges the distanced diagnosis of a ‘very experienced and skilled' neurologist. As we fly through the air we are forced to reflect on the ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director