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Laramie Movie Scope:
Port of Call

A sailor with a conscience falls in love with damaged goods

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1948, b/w; Hamnstad, Swedish) Shortly after Gösta Andersson (Bengt Eklund) debarks from his ship, returning from the East Indies, he witnesses the rescue of a young woman who jumps into the frigid water from the pier. Finished with being a sea dog for eight years, Gösta takes work on the docks; his cynical roommate chides him for reading a book by a sailor, Harry Martinson's Journeys Without Destination, as well as for wanting to believe in something: "women, justice, brotherhood?"

At a club dance he sees the girl who'd attempted to drown herself; taking a liking to her, he goes with Berit Holm (Nine-Christine Jönsson) to her parents' house - father's away at sea and mother's visiting an aunt - for the pleasures of the night together. In the morning after Gösta's departure, she (not expecting to see him again, though he'd asked to see her later in the week) writes "Lonely" in lipstick on the mirror.

When her mother returns, suspecting Berit of having had someone over, she calls Mrs Vilander, the social worker, to report her daughter's lascivious conduct. Twice sent to reform school (after her parents had locked her outside the flat for getting home late, she'd run off with a stranger) Berit (wanting to be left alone, to be free) receives a visit from Mrs Vilander (who has given up hope for Berit's redemption) at the factory where she works; her sympathetic supervisor intervenes, suggesting an experiment to give the girl another chance.

The ill effects of bad parenting and a stifling home life on a high-spirited young woman are responsible for Berit's anti-social behavior. Unexpectedly Berit finds Gösta on the bus after work; they go to a movie where three men from work greet Berit lewdly ("reformatory tart") as the couple exit the theater. Gösta takes them on, receiving a conk on the head for his gallantry.

In celebration of her birthday, Gösta takes her to a hotel for the weekend where Gertrud (Mimi Nelson), an employee, recognizes Berit, who asks her friend from reformatory school to keep their past a secret from Gösta; Gertrud borrows money from Berit to pay for an abortion.

In repeating his pledge of love, Gösta asks Berit to reciprocate, but she hesitates, afraid to speak words so often spoken in deceit; afraid he'll leave her, she says that happiness will only make things worse. Director/writer Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of Guldet och murarna, Olle Länsberg's novel and screenplay, follows a tortured conscience through a dark passage toward hoped-for freedom.

Not wanting to be dishonest with Gösta, who expresses the view of live and let live, saying he's been no saint himself, Berit tells him of her past and of her having lived with Gunnar before her suicidal leap. Gösta, however, responds: "Why couldn't you have kept your mouth shut?"

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Copyright © 2010 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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