In the last decade or so of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s life he directed just a few films for television, worked on the stage, and wrote several screenplays for other directors. One of those directors who took on a Bergman screenplay was his long-time colleague, protégé and ex-lover Liv Ullmann. Ullmann who made ten films with Bergman, directed the 2000 hidden gem Faithless (Trolosa) with much of the same passion and angst of Bergman’s best films, but presented her tale with a richer, more frank sexuality than he ever attempted.
Faithless details the story of a successful actress, Marianne (Lena Endre), who is seemingly happily married to a famed Swedish symphony conductor, Markus (Thomas Hanzon) and they have an adorable daughter, Isabelle. When Marianne has an affair with a mutual friend, David (Krister Henrikson) her life begins to unravel.
One of the more interesting aspects of Ullmann’s narrative is how the story is told. Famed Bergman leading man, Erland Josephson plays Bergman, a writer who is composing the film’s story while interviewing his creation Marianne, as she delivers confession-like monologues detailing her betrayal of her husband and newfound passion with her lover, David. Marianne appears to the writer in his sparse study and sits in a window seat glancing at the seaside and revealing her inner secrets as if on a psychiatrist’s couch. Marianne’s confessions become so power at some points, the writer is overcome by the emotions of his own creation.
Ullmann composes many shots of Marianne in a style very reminiscent of the signature framing of Bergman’s Persona, with dual profile images of her heroine, and others with Marianne looking straight into the camera in tight close up as she purges her soul dealing with the fears, pains of divorce and the bitter custody battle with her husband over dear Isabelle.
Where Ullmann goes beyond mere imitation of her cinematic mentor is in the explicit understanding and exploration of the woman’s view on her infidelity and the effects it has on the many others who love her. Endre, who viewers may remember as Erika Berger, from the 2009 Swedish versions of Steig Larsson’s The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, etc. series, is outstanding in a very natural performance as Marianne. The film makes you sympathize with Marianne, but never condemns her for her actions. With Faithless, Ullmann without a doubt proved her skills as a director are comparable as her rich prowess as an Oscar nominated actress.