Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

People We Like: Ingrid Thulin

Ingrid Thulin [1926-2004] is the glacial Nordic blonde of several of Ingmar Bergman’s most austere films, and is perhaps seen as his most 'intellectual' actress, the others being considered more earthy?. She also had a varied international career ending up in Italian films of varying quality as she spent her later years in Rome. Her striking looks and voice are unusual – though for some reason she was dubbed by Angela Lansbury in her first Hollywood movie! Like Jeanne Moreau she can look beautiful, plain, serene, intense or agonised at will.

The other Bergman muses also had international roles of varied quality: Harriet Andersson in THE DEADLY AFFAIR, Bibi Andersson in Huston’s THE KREMLIN LETTER and a lesser Altman, QUINTET with Paul Newman; Eva Dahlbeck in THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR, and, most popular of all, Liv Ullmann - though most of her English speaking films were odd choices to say the least: anyone for FORTY CARATS, POPE JOAN, THE ABDICATION or the toe-curling remake of THE LOST HORIZON ? She was better served with Jan Troell in THE EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND and a welcome return to form with both Bergmans in AUTUMN SONATA and later in Ingmar’s last film SARABAND, as well as her own writing and directing efforts. There is a brilliant Ingmar Bergman site: which contains a wealth of material on Bergman and his main players [including Thulin], with photos, comments etc.

Ingrid began in Swedish films in the late 40s. I first saw her in the 1956 thriller FOREIGN INTRIGUE when I was a child and she stayed in the memory as a mysterious blonde in this Robert Mitchum thriller, which also featured Genevieve Page. WILD STRAWBERRIES in 1957 is of course her breakthrough movie and one of Ingmar Bergman’s most fascinating works. I have just had another look at it and it is as mesmerising as ever. Thulin is Marianna, the daughter-in-law accompanying the ageing professor in this very moving symbolic tale of an old man's journey from emotional isolation to a kind of personal renaissance. One does watch this though with a whole different perspective when in one's early 60s than one did when in one's twenties !

I have not seen her following films with Bergman: BRINK OF LIFE or WINTER LIGHT in 1962 but their reputations suggest they will be worth eventually catching up with. THE MAGICIAN from 1958 was spell-binding when I saw it recently, as per my review. A detour to Hollywood followed in 1962 with Vincente Minnelli’s odd film the remake of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALPYSE with Thulin as Glenn Ford’s romantic interest and, I only found out later, dubbed by Angela Lansbury.

As it happens one of the first films I saw when I moved to London aged 18 in 1964 was Bergman’s THE SILENCE, rather a notorious film at the time due to some implied lesbian content between the two sisters, but Thulin as the ill Ester is certainly emotionally wrenching in her isolation in a hotel in a strange city while her sultry sister Anna – Gunnel Lindblom, another Bergman regular – picks up a man and tells her sister about it afterwards while the little boy wanders around the hotel.

RETURN FROM THE ASHES is a brilliant thriller by ever-dependable J Lee Thompson in 1965 which had been out of circulation for a long time, so it was good to re-see it recently. Thulin scores as the woman returning from a concentration camp, it also features Maximilian Schell and Samantha Eggar, and there is a great bathroom scene … definitely one to watch out for. Two of Thulin’s from 1966 that I unaccountably missed are Resnais’s LE GUERRE EST FINIE (the War is Over) where she is Yves Montand’s mistress, and also Mai Zetterling’s directing debut NIGHT GAMES. Two more (unseen!) Bergmans followed: HOUR OF THE WOLF in 1968 and THE RITE in 1969.

Visconti’s THE DAMNED in 1969 was a major international hit, maybe for the wrong reasons, but we all flocked to this chunk of Italian-German decadence which had some striking sequences among the more sensational: Helmut Berger in drag for starters! Thulin is little more than a waxwork as his mother, particularly at her wedding to Dirk Bogarde as the nazi’s take over, Charlotte Rampling makes a vivid impression and its all still tremendously watchable.

An Italian giallo thriller SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS in 1971 is a fascinating example of the genre: Jean Sorel is found apparently dead in a Prague park and brought to the morgue, but he is still alive but paralysed as he tries to remember what happened to him and his missing girlfriend and that strange club where other girls go missing. Medics try to revive him but time is running out as he is wheeled to the autopsy room …. Thulin is under-used here as a fellow journalist and ex-lover of Sorel, but sports a chic line of headscarfes.

In 1972 came the searing experience that is Bergman’s CRIES AND WHISPERS, emotionally powerful at the time I have not seen it since but it remains one to re-see. Here, Harriet Andersson is the dying sister in turn of the century Sweden. Her two sisters try to care for her but she finds more solace with the devoted maid Anna. It is of course about pain, death, love, lust, hate, and self-loathing - Liv Ullmann the sensual sister and Thulin the icy control freak who cannot bear to be touched – even mutilating herself with glass to keep her husband away. Like Ingmar Bergman’s stage production of HEDDA GABLER (with Maggie Smith, which I saw in London in 1970) it is set in red rooms with people clad in black. A film of powerful images and emotions.

She was Miriam in MOSES THE LAWGIVER, a tv mini-series in 1974, with Burt Lancaster as Moses. SALON KITTY in 1976 is a Tinto Brass confection about the seedy goings-on at Madame Kitty's Berlin brothel during WWII, and was a film that movie buffs like me didn’t bother with at the time, but I may actually put it on my wanted list now, as it should at least provide some amusement, if the comments on imdb are any guide – ““Cabaret” on acid” being one comment!. Thulin of course is Kitty, with Helmut Berger again, though not playing her son this time!

THE CASSANDRA CROSSING also in 1976 was a lot of fun, one of the last of the 70s disaster movies this was set on a train going across Europe which some terrorists who have picked up plague germs from a botched robbery have boarded. The authorities led by ruthless officer Burt Lancaster have to keep the train moving and re-route it to an unsafe bridge in Poland…. It’s a great all star cast of the time headed by Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, with Ava Gardner having a choice time with toyboy Martin Sheen. Even O C Simpson and Lee Stransberg are on board, others like Alida Valli or John Philip Law are in little more than walk-ons. Ingrid thankfully is not on the doomed train but back in Geneva at World Health HQ as she argues with Burt about rescuing the passengers – they do manage to rescue a dog who does recover but Lancaster is determined there shall be no survivors …..

Thulin’s 9th and final Bergman film AFTER THE REHEARSAL was in 1984 for tv, again its an unseen item as are several more until her last credit in 1988. She died in 2004. She had been married to Harry Schein, head of the Swedish Film Institute.

Its an interesting international career, her Bergman films will be watched and re-watched as long as we watch movies.

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