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A Woman’s Face (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 13, 2011 by  



While “Intermezzo” featured Bergman as a musician who has an affair with a married man, in “A Womans’ Face”, Bergman takes on her biggest challenge earlier in her career as a criminal and leader of a blackmail ring, but also a woman who had a disfigured face and has been given a new chance in life after plastic surgery.  While this Swedish film did inspire a loosely-based film adaptation in Hollywood, the original Swedish version is still enjoyable and a joy to see Ingrid Bergman playing a different, more challenging role.  A worthy inclusion to Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: A Woman’s Face (En kvinnas ansikte)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1938

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:37:1), Swedish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Gustaf Molander

Based on the Play “Il etait une fois” by Francis de croisset

Written by Gosta Stevens

Music by Eric Benston

Cinematography by Ake Dahlqvist

Edited by Oscar Rosander

Art Direction by Ame Akermark

Starring:

Ingrid Bergman as Anna Holm/Anna Paulsson

Tore Svennberg as Magnus Barring

Anders Henrikson as Dr. Wegert

Georg Rydeberg as Torsten Barring

Gunnar Sjoberg as Harald Berg

Hilda Borgstrom as Emma

Karin Kavil as Mrs. Wegert

Erik “Bullen” Berglund as Nyman

Sigurd Wallen as Miller

Gosta Cederlund as the Count

Goran Bernhard as Lars-Erik Barring

Bror Bugler as Georg Mark

Today, Ingrid Bergman’s name is synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age as a three-time Oscar winner and the star of such classics as Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious. However, before she became a Hollywood legend, Bergman was the star of a series of Swedish films in the 1930s which are being rediscovered as a vital, if long-overlooked period in her singular career. Contains INTERMEZZO (1936), A WOMAN’S FACE (1938), and JUNE NIGHT (1940).

“She had talent they could not have made up Ingrid Bergman seemed as natural in her early films as she was dazzling – The Boston Globe.

Like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, foreign actresses who would make their debut Hollywood and would be embraced by an International audience, from Sweden, there was Ingrid Bergman.

Winner of three Academy Awards, two Emmy’s, a Tony Award, each for “Best Actress” and considered one of the greatest female actresses of all time in America (ranked #4 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Female Star”), there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is looked at as a classy, talented actress.

Best known for her roles in “Casablanca” (1942), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), “Gaslight” (1944), “The Bell of St. Mary’s” (1945), Hitchock’s “Spellbound” (1945) and “Notorious (1946), “Joan of Arc” (1948) and later in her career for “Anastasia” (1956), years before she began making Hollywood films, there was Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress.

Making her cinema debut in 1935 with “Munkbrogreven”, Bergman would not make her Hollywood debut until 1939. But before then, she had made several Swedish films and three of them are included in the Kino International DVD Box Set titled “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” which would contain her films “Intermezzo” (1936), “A Woman’s Face” (1938) and “June Night” (1940).

For her Swedish film “En kvinnas ansikte” (A Woman’s Face), the film would be the second Bergman film that would receive a Hollywood remake (this time starring Joan Crawford) in 1941 and the film would also feature another collaboration with Swedish actor and filmmaker Gustaf Molander.

“A Woman’s Face” revolves around Anna Holm (played by Ingrid Bergman), a young woman who’s face was disfigured in a fire during her childhood.  Since that day, she has grown up with hatred towards the world and runs a blackmail ring  who try to extort money from the rich.

One of those people she is trying to extort money from is Mrs. Wegert (played by Karin Kavli), the wife of plastic surgeon/physician Dr. Wegert (played by Anders Henrikson) but also a woman having an affair with another man.

Anna’s group has three letters that she had written to her lover and tries to extort 10,000 crowns from her.

On the day, Anna is trying to receive payment for the letters, Mrs. Wegert is unable to come up with any money but only jewelry worth 5,000 crowns.  As Mrs. Wegert tries to look for more money, Anna finds a book of how Dr. Wegert has repaired the faces of men wounded during the war.  When Dr. Wegert comes home early, Anna is surprised and tries to escape through a window but instead falls and breaks her ankle.

Dr. Wegert sees Anna and is about to contact the police but sees that she’s injured and also sees her disfigured face.  Mrs. Wegert, afraid that Anna may reveal her secret, tells her husband not to contact the police in which he doesn’t.  While questioning Anna about why she chose to have this bad life, she tells him about her face and how can she work in society with everyone looks at her as a monster.

Feeling bad for her, Dr. Wegert puts her up in his clinic and also surgically repairs her face.  She becomes a beautiful woman.  And Dr. Wegert tells her that she can begin a new life and move forward.  Meanwhile, Anna who is happy about the results of her surgery, decides to give Mrs. Weger the letters back and end the extortion.

But there is one major job her blackmail ring have planned on and that is to help Torsten Barring, a man who wants to inherit the fortune of The Count (played by Gosta Cederlund).  The problem is, the inheritance is being planned for his grandson and so, Torsten goes to Anna and her group to make sure he gets the inheritance.  For the job, the blackmail rings gets 75,000 crowns + 25% of the inheritance that Torsten will make.  All that is needed is a beautiful woman to become the governess.

And because Anna has just received surgery, she decides that she will be the one who will become the governess and go by the name Anna Paulsson.

As Anna leaves for the job to live at the Barring chateau and be with the grandson, she meets the man who she thinks is the grandson, Harald Berg (played by Gunnar Sjoberg).  But when she arrives to meet with the Barring clan and meet the grandson, Lars-Erik (played by Goran Bernhard), she is shocked that he is a very young boy, not a man.

And through the process of living with the family, Lars-Erik and Anna form a strong bond which eventually wins the affection of Harald.  But unfortunately, Torsten is not so thrilled because she is not doing the job that he expects of her.  She tells him that she must kill the young boy in order for him to get the inheritance.

Will Anna, the woman who once looked at the world with ugliness but now given a new chance of life, kill the child for money?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“A Woman’s Face” is presented in black and white (1:37:1) in Swedish with English subtitles.

First, let me just say how thrilled I am to see Ingrid Bergman’s earlier works being released on DVD in America. And knowing that a lot of the films from the silent years to the 30’s, chances of seeing print damage for these older films is common. The question is of how the original print has fared as they have been kept in the Svensk Film Vaults for quite a long time.

I believe this is the first time “A Woman’s Face” was released on DVD, as the Joan Crawford version is what most people have seen.  In fact, most people first saw the Bergman version on TCM back in 2002, so with that being said, compared to “Intermezzo” which had some darkening and a little shaking, “A Woman’s Face” is much cleaner and looks very good on DVD.  Black levels were nice and deep, whites and grays were also well-contrast.  You can actually see the detail of the makeup of Bergman’s face quite well.

As for the audio, the Swedish dialogue is clear and understandable, I detected no hissing or pops during my viewing of this film and the English subtitles were very easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features in any of the DVD’s for the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD box set.

EXTRAS:

There is a info. sheet included with the DVD Box set explaining Ingrid Bergman’s career.

 

A challenging role for Ingrid Bergman, another Swedish film earlier in her career, “A Woman’s Face” features Bergman in the role of a criminal.

Sickened by the world because they look at her as a monster due to her face being burned in a house fire, what happens when this criminal gets her face surgically repaired and a new chance at life?

It’s important to note that this version of “A Woman’s Face” is much different than the Hollywood remake starring Joan Crawford.  As the Hollywood version would feature a court case, murder, etc., “A Woman’s Face” is much less dramatic in the fact that the character Anna is not fighting for her life.

In the Hollywood version, it is very dramatic and the court battle as Anna tries to prove her innocence was a big part of the film.

This is not the case of the Swedish version of the film.  Anna is a woman who has a new life, a new face and as mentioned, she did look at the world with such ugliness but now spending time with a wealthy family and taking care of a boy who looks at her with nothing but love and meeting others who care for her, it gives her emotions that she is not to used to.

But what happens when everything is going so good but yet you are still involved in something that is deceptive and criminal, can a person like Anna really change?

While I do enjoy the Hollywood version a bit more because it’s more of a drama and a thriller, “A Woman’s Face” is less subdued. Court cases in 1930’s film were quite banal at the time, very expected in American cinema and was the norm of Hollywood films.  But there is one element where the Hollywood version shines from its Swedish counterpart and that is, its shows Anna as a criminal who behaves that she has what it takes to kill a child.  That is where Joan Crawford shines as an actress.

Ingrid Bergman, still early in her career, in the beginning, she is able to show that she can play a criminal, but the 180 of turning into this new woman and then suddenly losing that criminal drive, it’s believable but for the movie’s sake, it doesn’t help much, because part of you still wants to see her capable of doing bad but then showing that she does have a conscience.

But that is what makes the difference between a Swedish and an American film.  The climax of the two films, he Swedish film features a horse chase, the American version uses murder and I found the Hollywood version, because of those circumstances, to be much more interesting. But I will say, there is not many films where you are going to find a sleigh chase in the ice for its climax action scene, so that was quite intriguing to see in this film.

But despite the Hollywood version trying to spice things up for a Western audience, by no means is the Swedish film, “A Woman’s Face”, is a bad film.  In fact, those who watched both films, many appreciate the non-Hollywood style of “A Woman’s Face”.  No court scene, no murder.  But a straightforward film of a woman who was once in the dark but has now been given a chance to be in the light.  Which side will she choose?

While it may be a bit difficult to see Ingrid Bergman playing a criminal, Ingrid Bergman did a good job (as well as the makeup crew who devised the prosthetic or makeup design) and while not necessarily a Hollywood-style happy ending, it was an appropriate ending for this film.

Overall, “A Woman’s Face” is a delightful drama film and a worthy inclusion to the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

 NOTE: Review is for the film, not the overall DVD Box Set.

 







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