“About her, I know even less. I don’t understand what is between them.”
A young man (Gosta Ekman) takes a job helping to organize the papers of a renowned philosopher (Lars Ekborg), and soon finds himself inextricably embroiled in Ekborg’s troubled marriage to a seemingly insane wife (Adriana Asti); when Ekman’s frustrated girlfriend (Agneta Ekmanner) appears at their house, relations get even more surreal and complicated.
It’s no surprise that noted philosopher/essayist Susan Sontag’s directorial cinematic debut — a Bergmanesque psychological drama housed within a Bunuel-ian/Godard-ian surrealist framework — has nothing to do with actual flesh-eating cannibals; what’s disappointing, however, is how ultimately derivative and pointless her experimental vision is. While we’re kept intentionally in the dark about various characters’ motivations, it’s immediately clear that Ekborg and his wife are manipulative narcissists desperate to ensnare gullible subjects in their troubled marital web; the real question (for those involved enough to care) is why Ekman and Ekmanner allow themselves to become part of such a farcically dysfunctional drama. When trying to read a bit more about Sontag’s possible intentions with the film, I stumbled across the following quote in an analytical essay, in which Duet… is described as “a film that punishes you vindictively for threatening its existence by trying to interpret it away” — in other words, viewers should be forewarned that any director who previously published a collection of essays entitled Against Interpretation (1966) is not likely to create a movie that allows for easy or straightforward analysis. Ultimately, this one is exclusively for diehard Sontag fans; all others should be forewarned.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Occasional moments of head-scratching surreality
No; this one will only appeal to certain constituents, and isn’t worth seeking out by all-purpose film fanatics. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book, though I’m not sure why.