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Sawdust and Tinsel

(Swedish 1953 b 86')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, the owner of a circus is living with an attractive performer. He visits his wife and son while she has an affair with an actor. He becomes jealous and considers giving up the circus. A clown gets over the embarrassment of his wife.

         Horses pull the wagons of a circus. Albert Johansson (Ake Gronberg) gets up in a wagon and climbs up to sit by the driver, who tells him about Alma (Gudrun Brost) during a hot summer. She starts taking off her clothes while many soldiers watch. One man runs and tells her husband, the clown Frost (Anders Ek), who runs followed by a group of people to where she is. He sees men laughing at naked bathers in the ocean. A boy hides her clothes so that when he brings her out, they cannot find them. The clown carries her and falls down. She blames the spectators, but they say it was her doing. The driver telling the story says that is women.

         In the rain they park the wagons and put up the big tent. As he shaves, Albert jokes with Anne (Harriet Andersson), who asks if he will go back to his family. Albert is dressed up and takes Anne to a theater to meet the great director, Mr. Sjuberg (Gunnar Bjornstrand). Albert says he owns the circus and that the rain ruined their costumes, and he asks if he can borrow some. The director is condescending but says they can use costumes in exchange for letting them attend the circus. The circus people try on costumes, and the actor Frans (Hasse Ekman) asks Anne to marry him. She reacts proudly and calls him pretty. He asks her to forgive him for what he said. She kisses him and tells him to go away.

         Anne polishes Albert’s boots and is worried about him visiting his wife and family. She cries and asks how she will manage without him.

         Albert enters a place and talks with his son who is nine. His wife Agda (Annika Tretow) comes out and offers him pancakes. She still has a shop and offers to loan him money because he has no shirt. She says that after he left, she became happier without the circus problems. She says she was in love with him; but after he left, it was gone. She likes the quiet life, but he calls it emptiness.

         In the theater Anne watches the actor rehearse. The director says they were terrible and hopes they will be better to tomorrow. Anne tells the actor that she wants to leave the circus. She asks him to take care of her. He says he will beat her and gives her perfume. She says she is stronger, and they arm wrestle; but he wins. Her dress is falling down, and she asks him for the key; but he refuses. He offers her jewelry she can sell. She takes off her dress.

         Agda sews a button on Albert’s coat, and he puts it back on. The boy says he wants to see a monkey do tricks for a penny, and Albert gives him money. Albert says he wants to stay there with her. She tells him not to beg. He says he could sell the tent and costumes. She says no one will take away her peace of mind and freedom.

         The actor gives Anne a jewel, and she leaves. Albert sees her on the street go into a shop. Albert comes in the wagon and sits down. She asks about his wife, and he asks why she went into the jewelers’ shop. He questions her and asks about Frans. She admits she visited his dressingroom. He says she is lying, and she admits he gave her an amulet. He is jealous. She says she was not unfaithful but then admits she slept with him. He says they are both sick of the circus and of each other and laughs. The drunk clown Frost comes in, and Albert gives him drinks. Albert drinks too and says Anne can never be respectable, and he won’t marry her. Albert takes out a pistol, and the clown asks him to shoot his wife. Albert says he will shoot Frost and points the gun at his head. Then he turns it toward himself. Albert and the clown stagger outside and sing. Albert falls down and talks about Anne. Albert tells the circus people to get ready for the performance.

         The show starts with the clowns. Alma works with the chained bears. Anne rides a horse, and Albert sees Frans watching her and commenting. Albert uses his whip to remove Frans’s hat and then trips him. Frans slaps Albert, and Mr. Sjuberg announces there will be a fight. Frans hits Albert and makes him look foolish. Frans knocks out Albert, and the clown says the show is over. The two clowns grab Anne and carry her off.

         In the wagon Anne watches Albert. People are outside, and Anne asks Albert to let her in. Inside Albert points the gun at his head and then shoots it at the mirror. The clown knocks, and Albert comes out. He pulls Alma to the cage and shoots the bears. Albert goes to the horse stable and cries. He gives the order that they are going. The horses pull the wagons at night. As they are walking, Frost tells Albert about his dream of Alma. Frost goes in to be with his wife, and Albert walks with Anne.

         This drama explores the difficult life of a traveling circus with its thrills and challenges. The theater director and the seductive actor imply their art is more refined, and the quiet domestic life of Albert’s wife is contrasted to the transient circus.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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