This is undeniably a masterpiece, but I hated watching it. That’s not even a knock on Bergman, who remains my favorite director. It’s a testament to this film completely achieving its goal. It was uncomfortable and awful to behold.

sweden, 1968, swedish



Typically, if it had been more than two weeks since I’d watched one of these films, I’d be apologizing to you all for the resultant sketchy thoughts I’d have to share. This time, however, the film is burned in to my brain, having been made all the more pertinent by the horrible events in the real world.

I don’t publish these when I write them, so I’ll note that it’s currently October 18, 2023. There is also, currently, a war happening between Israel and Hamas. I’m not going to comment on that, other than to say that my heart breaks daily with all of the suffering, and all of the killing. I mention it only in the context of what I’m about to write.

I hated watching this movie. That’s not to say that I hated the movie itself. This is an incredible film. But, for me, it was pure triggering trauma to sit through it. I am very fortunate, so far in my life I haven’t lived in a war zone. But, I am the grandchild of those who have, and their experiences are burned into my being. For those of us for whom war isn’t merely an abstract concept, this was an unbelievably unpleasant experience.

The title is exactly right. War is shameful, as are the actions of those caught up in it. This film isn’t about right and wrong, or sides, it’s merely about what it’s like to be a person living in that moment. To be fearing for one’s life, caught between impossible choices, and merely trying to find a means of survival. It’s unbearable, and yet being born by any number of real people around the world at any time. We are all witness to the failure of our species to do better.