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DUET FOR CANNIBALS

Sweden, 1969 (MIFF 1971, Programme 15)

Director: Susan Sontag

Novelist, film and social critic, Susan Sontag's first film is described as a psychological drama of four people, in which an older couple exercises its will and power over two students, and manipulates them for its own amusement and personal objectives.

Tomas and Ingrid are two politically committed students who have lived together for several years. Arthur Bauer, an academic and ex-revolutionary in his 40s, employs Tomas as a private secretary. To make the job easier, Tomas moves in with Arthur and his young wife, Francesca. In addition to his numerous chores, Tomas is also expected to keep Francesca company, a task which he suspects implies more than professional duties. Ingrid, who observes the trail of events from the outside, tries to persuade Tomas to leave the Bauers, but gradually she, too, becomes involved in a situation fraught with subtle undercurrents of emotions.

Tension builds up from the peculiar interaction of the four characters, their shifting relationships, ambivalence and ambiguities. In its oblique fashion, the film makes a comment on the new sexual permissiveness and the old hangovers about pedagogy and female emancipation.

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