FRENZY

Sweden, 1944 (MIFF 1957, Programme 4)

Director: Alf Sjöberg

Frenzy was the most challenging film of a Swedish revival in the last years of the war. It has a high seriousness of theme coupled with a distinctive visual style. Its theme - the longings and frustrations of modern life, the loneliness and anguish of young people trying to come to terms with a difficult world - is typical of many of the films scripted or directed by Ingmar Bergman.

In his last year at school a boy is tormented by a sadistic master, and anguish rapidly develops into neurosis. His home is unsympathetic and he takes refuge in an affair with a shop-girl who is being persecuted by a man whose identity she conceals. As the dramatic mood of the film becomes more and more tense, it is revealed that the sadistic master is also the sexual tormentor and the first crisis is reached as he drives the girl to her death. The second occurs when the boy, who has had a breakdown, recovers, assaults his tormentor, and is expelled from school. The note of hope in the final sequence is both apt and unforced.

Sjoberg handles his characters with authority, fumbling nothing in their psychological interpretation. The first shots, of a boy late for school dodging up and down stairs to escape a pursuing master, are an exciting foretaste of the film's imaginative treatment. Here is young life caught up in an exacting, inflexible system. Building on this impression, Sjoberg develops the conflict between the sensitive. highly-strung boy and the master, whose cross-examinations are a form of torture, When the scene changes to the boy's home the camera is used unobtrusively to suggest the conventional outlook of his parents. Similarly, in the girl's apartment, background, lighting, and photography combined to create an atmosphere of mingled innocence and sluttishness. Later, during the examinations, the director supplements the note of rising tension by reference to the stifling weather.

The imaginative relationship of the story to its background was one of the film's most exciting qualities; and the finely controlled performance of Stig Jarnel as the sadistic bully, Mai Zetterling as his bewildered victim, and Alf Kjellin as the tortured boy in whose idealistic gesture she finds comfort, add to the incisive impact of the film.


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