Monday, March 27, 2017

Torment (1944)

Wow! Thank you, Universe, for the meaningful-to-me film that I caught by accident because I couldn't sleep at 3am on Monday morning.

I came upon this film on TCM about halfway through, not having any clue what I was watching. In the first scene that I happened upon, The Lovers were beautiful and embracing. The Girl was scared. Ominous shadows on the walls. The Girl begged the Boy not to leave. More shadows (as dramatic as "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari") as he left; he had to study for his graduation exams (really!). 

I thought: It's a murder mystery. The Girl is about to be killed. Indeed, once her lover had left, she went about her shadowy apartment turning the light off and on. Once she'd gotten into bed, a shadowy figure appeared and she shrieked...

Now, I thought that the college boy would be blamed for a murder, etc. etc. Nope. She wasn't murdered. The Boy came back a day or so later... And so much more happened!

This film was surprising and, yes, wondrous, in its honesty. While watching to the end, I kept thinking, "I really love this film, but how in the world am I ever going to figure out who made this and who these people are?" Usually TCM films on so late have no summing up at the end, unlike their prime-time movies. This one did, though: Directed by Alf Sjoberg (whom I hadn't heard of), and... the very first screenplay by Ingmar Bergman! There's a tipping point of trust with artists, as there is with people you actually know... I'd seen "Wild Strawberries" and "Fanny and Alexander" and "The Seventh Seal" and I admired the man's work, etc. But with "Torment," I found I could trust him.

What I thought was going to be a simplistic (and lauded) noir-type thing (based, obviously, on all of the shadows and staircases that I was seeing) turned out to be a psychologically nuanced and interesting slice of reality. There was extreme darkness, but not just for darkness' sake. And there was banal darkness, of the type that I recognized. But also, in the midst of all of the pain, was everyday human kindness and decency, and a real, unphony sense of actual hope.

After watching this, I felt I could breathe again. Sanity!

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