Torment (1944)

Torment (1944)

“A man of your learning shouldn’t care so much for respect bred from fear.”

A teenage student (Alf Kjellin) suffering under cruel treatment at the hands of his Latin teacher (Stig Järrel) falls for a young tobacconist shop clerk (Mai Zetterling) who lives in constant fear of Järrel’s sadistic visits to her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Ingmar Bergman Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Scandinavian Films
  • Teachers

Ingmar Bergman’s screenwriting debut (after joining the Svensk Filmindustri on a one-year contract) was this film directed by his mentor, Alf Sjöberg, and loosely based on his own troubled experiences as a non-confirmist student. Unsurprisingly for a Bergman film, it’s both highly atmospheric and extremely dark, depicting the hell experienced by vulnerable students under cruel tutelage:

… as well as a lack of support or understanding at home (specifically in the form of a strict, uncompassionate father):

… and troubled individuals who reach out to one other physically for comfort and love.

These are all themes that would continue to play out in Bergman’s later work, and it’s interesting (if not entirely satisfying) to see them here in a rather nascent and simplistic form. Thankfully, there are compassionate individuals on the sidelines of the bleak narrative, including the school’s headmaster (Olof Winnerstrand), shown here listening to another bullied student (Jan Molander) who has come to him for assistance:

… and Kjellin’s understanding mother (Märta Arbin):

Bergman was apparently asked to write a more optimistic ending for his film, and was allowed to take over directorial duties for this scene, which in his own words made him “more excited that I can describe.” Clearly he had found his calling!

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Martin Bodin’s atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for those interested in Bergman’s beginnings. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Torment (1944)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, but true Bergman fans (or completists) will most likely be curious-enough to check it out.

    It’s more compelling than I imagined it would be – even if the melodrama of it all is occasionally a bit much. (Midway, there is a moment – which leads to a short, connected sequence – that is genuinely startling / frightening.) I didn’t find the major ‘twist’ all that surprising.

    As it reaches its conclusion, the script begins to feel a bit unwieldy but not overtly so. It’s a welcome surprise, however, that (as a writer) Bergman resists some of the more-obvious choices that might have been made for a story of this kind.

    A number of scenes are written extremely well, Sjöberg’s direction is fine and the scenes that have a more gothic look are visually effective.

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