Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman & Erland Josephson
Starring: Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Eva Dahlbeck, Karin Kavli, Gertrud Fridh, Mona Malm
In all of human history, there has been a repeating pattern displaying our obsession with geniuses. Whether it be Galileo to Albert Einstein and even Steve Jobs. Their work and intellect are things that at times draw worship for their abilities and what they contribute to the world, even to the point of ignoring their faults. Utilizing that idea, with All These Women, Ingmar Bergman takes this obsession and turns it into a complete farce.
After being assigned to interview a brilliant cellist, a musical critic named Cornelius (Jarl Kulle) meets the many different women that fawn over “The Master.” Cornelius quickly learns that all of the women have a complex relationship with the cellist and that they express themselves in very different ways.
There’s certainly something special about experiencing an Ingmar Bergman comedy and seeing the same actors that have excelled in his hard-hitting dramas have some fun. That certainly became the case in All These Women. All of the female characters had their own whimsy that they added to the story as they represent a different type of woman to the plot. Cornelius must simply work his way through this house to get the interview he’s seeking from the brilliant cellist.
Much of the story does feel dated with the way the women and men interact with one another, but it does not take away from the humor on display. It works because of Bergman’s comedic writing but also the incredible performances by Bibi Andersson and Harriet Andersson. Harriet has done the entire cycle with Bergman from Summer with Monika, existential dramas like Through A Glass Darkly, and something as comedic as Smiles of a Summer Night. She always puts out incredible work and portrays a maid so well in the film. Her character, Isolde, seems to be that wildcard character that can show up at any moment to cause trouble for Cornelius. Whenever she has a comedic role, Harriet ensures that her acting range is on full display.
Bibi Andersson, of course, delivers the goods as well with her portrayal of one of the more prominent women of the house, Humlan. She always has this elegance and grace to her performances, which differentiates her work from what Harriet typically brings to a Bergman film. With this performance, she wields an incredible amount of power and she utilizes it well.
This film should certainly not be confused to be one of Bergman’s better films. Everything feels very surface level, but it serves as a more broad appeal comedy than his others. The explorations are shallow and not everything lands perfectly, but it still turned into a fine viewing experience because the characters are larger than life. They live in what seems to be a fantasy world where these wild behaviors exist, but it may actually hit closer to home. We tend to have hero-worship in our culture where we hang onto folks and ignore their faults for the sake of basking in their glory. These women live through this perspective, as they witness just how little care the brilliant cellist has for them individually and yet still give him all of their adoration.
Even when not at his best, Bergman creates good films and All These Women stands out as something that has its own entertainment value without ever reaching into “great” status. It has lots to laugh about and provides the legendary actors the ability to have some fun on screen. I will never fault them for that and it feels like this film can be thrown on an enjoyed as it moves fairly quickly and sits as only 80 minutes.