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Serpent's Egg [Import USA Zone 1]

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"Abel Rosenberg is a circus acrobat out of work, and living in a defeated Germany after the First World War. He takes a job at the Veregus Clinic and there he finds the truth behind the work of the Professor Veregus; work that led to his own brother committing suicide..." --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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26 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Life as a Cabaret 8 janvier 2006
Par G. Bestick - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: DVD
In The Serpent's Egg, Ingmar Bergman uses Hollywood dollars to create a creepy 1920s Berlin that is both homage to the masters of German Expressionist film and a comment on the conditions that led to the rise of Nazism. Released in 1978, the movie wasn't a commercial success. Some critics blamed the script, particularly the dialog, which had a one-level-removed literalness to it. (This was one of the few films Bergman made in English.) Liv Ullmann, always a perceptive analyst of the director's work, thought the scale of the film overwhelmed him; the focus on crowd shots and lavish sets took him away from his central strength, which was the unflinching examination of the human personality under stress.

The movie isn't completely captivating, but not because it's written in English or because a lot of money was spent on sets. The main problem seems to be Bergman's limited emotional insight into the moral and social ambiguities of 1920s Berlin.

Abel Rosenberg, an American Jew, has been wandering through Europe as part of an acrobatic troupe with his brother Max and Max's wife. (Abel is played by David Carradine, an American actor best known for his role as a Kung Fu master on American TV.) Injury breaks up the troupe, and his brother's marriage. They land in Berlin, where Abel drifts through his days while the political situation deteriorates around him. One night he comes home to the room that they share and finds Max's brains all over the wall. The external action turns on Abel trying to find out why his brother killed himself. This leads him into ever darker encounters with the police, Nazi thugs, and an enigmatic scientist he knew back in Philadelphia.

The emotional center of the movie is Abel's relationship with Manuela (Liv Ullmann), his brother's ex-wife, who works as a cabaret performer. In an interview, Carradine said that although he felt privileged to work with Bergman, the real reason he wanted to make this movie was to work with Ullmann, who at that time was the "hottest actress on the planet." As a woman adrift in a strange city, looking for something or someone to grab hold of, Ullmann gives her usual nuanced, emotionally honest performance. Manuela feels she must take care of Abel, and soon they're living together and struggling to survive on the hyperinflated currency of the time. (Bergman was having difficulties in Sweden over his taxes when he made The Serpent's Egg, which may explain the fetishistic handling of dollars and marks throughout the movie.) Abel, in typical Bergman fashion, both wants and fears the intimacy Manuela offers. Abel drinks, the situation deteriorates, Manuela falls ill. Suffice it to say, there's no happy ending here.

Bergman's metaphor for this dark social period is the serpent's egg, which allows you to see the shape of the snake through the thin membrane of the shell. Nazism was there to see, he's saying, if you chose to look. Of course, many didn't, preferring to spend their time in that other symbol of pre-WW II Germany, the cabaret. A good portion of this movie is shot in the cabaret where Manuela works, and it's here that Bergman' imagination fails him, I think, because he doesn't seem to grasp the nuances of the cabaret metaphor, which was much more richly used in Bob Fosse's 1972 movie Cabaret, which grew out of Christopher Isherwood's book, Berlin Stories.

Bergman's cabaret is one dimensional, a tawdry troupe of actors offering second rate diversions. It stands in for a society that refuses to make individual commitments to impose its collective will to block the spread of evil. At the end of the film, the Nazis wreck Manuela's cabaret, brutally beat the owner, and set the place on fire. Art, Bergman seems to say, isn't powerful enough to oppose focused political will.

In Fosse's hands, cabaret life cuts in many directions. It was a defiant response to the hardship and misery of the times; a willed refusal to give in to despair; an affirmation of the power of the imagination to transcend circumstances. It was also about moral weakness, based on self-delusion and self-indulgence. And it collaborated with the coming evil by creating a distraction that allowed fascism to take root and flower - singing louder to drown out the stomp of the jackboots. Fosse, the Broadway song and dance man, seems better able to portray the willed self-deception of this decadent time than Bergman, the clear- eyed Swedish nihilist.

In the Serpent's Egg, Bergman transfers his usual preoccupation about the disintegration of an individual personality under social pressure from a personal to a political context. See The Serpent's Egg for the intellectual and aesthetic pleasures you'll get from any Bergman movie - there's always something astonishing to be pulled from Bergman's fevered imagination. See it also for the lurid and mesmerizing Expressionist nightmare created by master cinematographer Sven Nykvist. If you want to empathize with entertainers caught in history's vise, and to understand why the German people got hypnotized by the Nazis, see Bob Fosse's Cabaret.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"I wake up from a nightmare, and find that real life is worse than the dream" 29 juillet 2005
Par B. Alcat - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: DVD
"The newspapers are black with fear, threats and rumours. The government seems powerless. A bloody confrontation between the extremist parties appears unavoidable. Despite all this, people go to work, the rain never stops and fear rises like vapour from the cobblestones". These phrases, said by an unknown narrator, are a clear description of the dark mood that permeates this film.

The main character is Abel Rosenberg (David Carradine), an American circus artist who is stranded in Berlin along with his brother Max and Max's former wife Manuela (Liv Ullman), due to an injury that rendered Max unable to perform their trapeze act. Things deteriorate as they run out of money, as the general situation for all those living in Germany worsens too. It is the 1920's, and the whole country suffered from inflation, unemployment, and periodic outbursts of Anti-Jewish sentiment. Berlin wasn't a good place to live for anybody at that time, but the situation for the Rosenbergs was even worse, because they were poor, unemployed, Jewish and foreigners.

"The serpent's egg" (1977) begins with Max committing suicide, as an act of utmost desperation. After that, Abel is left with Manuela as his only ally in a place that steadily becomes fulls of omens presaging misfortune. To endure the mere fact of being alive when his brother is not, Abel gets drunk every day. The irreality that alcohol offers offers him is the only way of fighting fear, fear of what is happening in Berlin, and of what he sees looming in the horizon. In Abel's words, "I wake up from a nightmare, and find that real life is worse than the dream".

Evidently, Abel Rosenberg is an unlikely main protagonist, because he doesn't do much, merely existing in an unfriendly environment, taking in all that is happening without doing anything to change it. But maybe that is the task that the director, Ingmar Bergman, gave to him: to act as an eyewitness of times to come.

Near the end of the movie, we get an explanation regarding the title of this film. One of the secondary characters, a crazy scientist bent on experimenting on human beings, says that "... anybody who makes the slightest effort can see what is waiting in the future. It's like a serpent's egg: through the thin membranes, you can clearly discern the already perfect reptile". I think that Bergman tried to point out that the germs of Nazism were already in place long before Hitler seized power. The serpent's egg was there, and nobody tried to destroy it.

On the whole, I heartily recommend this movie. It is certainly gloomy, and doesn't get better near the end. Nonetheless, it is a masterpiece, because through a simple story, dark colours, metaphors, and flawless performances the director managed to convey what the mood of 1920's Berlin might have been like, and the kind of situation that can pave the way for a totalitarianism. After watching "The serpent's egg" you won't feel like singing, but you will certainly feel like thinking...

Belen Alcat
14 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Children of a Darker God 30 octobre 2006
Par ophelia99 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: DVD Achat vérifié
The only thing I want to add to the many insightful comments of others is that this is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Yes, I know it doesn't have any of the stock supernatural props we associate with that genre, but it has the trapped-forever-in-a-nightmare atmosphere of the deepest nihilistic horror. It will haunt you.

Favorite moment: Protagonist is approached in the night by a prostitute:

Protagonist: "Go to Hell!"

(Prostitute, laughing): "Where do you think you are?"
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Is It Really The Master's Mistake? 7 avril 2007
Par Galina - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Fear, Loathing, and Despair in Berlin, November 1923

This film universally considered "the master's failure" but I don't agree with the statement. It is very different from the rest of Bergman's films I've seen but that does not make it failure for me. It is only Bergman's second film in English and it boasts an unusual for his films large budget (Dino De Laurentis was a producer) with enormous and elaborate sets. Bergman was able to recreate on the screen Germany (Berlin) of 1920th exactly how it was seen in the films of 1920th German directors - Fritz Lang's films come to mind first. Another film that The Serpent's Egg reminded me of was Bob Fosse's Cabaret - the theme of the Feast during the Time of Plague sounds very prominent in both films, and the cabaret's musical numbers in Bergman's film could've came from Fosse's. I was very impressed by Liv Ullmann's singing and dancing in the beginning of the film - she can do anything.

In spite of the film's obvious differences from Bergman's earlier work, it explores many of his favorite themes. It is in part a political film about the helpless, distressed and terrorized members of society that face the merciless and inevitable force of history and are perished without a trace in the process. Also like the earlier films, The Serpent's Egg explores its characters' self-isolation, inability to communicate, their attempt to cope with the pain of living, their despair, fear, and disintegration.

The Serpent's Egg may not be a perfect film and a lot has been said about the abrupt and heavy handed ending, the dialogs that don't always work, and David Carradine's performance as a main character. Perfect or not, I think it is an interesting, visually always amazing (cinematography by Sven Nykvist is above any praise) and very honest and thorough study of the human condition in the unbearable situation.

In the documentary 'Serpent's Egg: Away From Home' (2004), Ingmar Bergman, Liv Ullmann and David Carradine talk about making the film, how it started and how and why it was so different. Liv said that couple of years ago she and Bergman saw The Serpent's Egg for the first time, and they both liked it. I am in a good company, then, because I believe that Serpent's Egg is an unforgettable film and everyone who was involved in making it should not be ashamed of it. I am yet to see a Bergman's film that I don't like.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ahead Of Its Time 21 septembre 2004
Par R. W. Rasband - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Ingmar Bergman's "The Serpents's Egg" was met with critical derision and popular indifference when it was first released. Some thought cynically that it was an awkward attempt by Bergman to crack the commerical American market (it's in English, unlike all his other films other than "The Touch.") And it was on a trendy subject (Nazism) and in an unfamiliar genre for the director (the thriller.) As the years have gone by, however, we as the audience have become more used to post-modernism and genre self-reflection in movies, like the self-conscious referentiality to other films of the "Star Wars" series; or the work of Quentin Tarantino. It's now possible to see "The Serpent's Egg" more clearly as Bergman's homage to German Expressionist horror cinema. It's like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or "M" filtered through Bergman's own unique vision. It's a master critique of a genre by a master filmmaker who deploys his usual obsessions in a startlingly different way. Later films bear the same imprint as "The Serpent's Egg", like Steven Soderbergh's "Kafka", David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man", or Woody Allen's own "Shadows and Fog."

But maybe it's not such a big departure for Bergman as some thought. He had made genre films before. "Hour of the Wolf" and "Cries and Whispers" had elements of horror. "Shame" was a larger-than-usual-scale war film. "The Silence" is about political upheaval. It's thrilling to see Bergman's version of a more sleazy, horrific "Cabaret". David Carradine is oddly passive as the hero, the Jewish acrobat Abel Rosenberg, but his victimization fits the film's theme. One can argue that Bergman's unpleasant encounter with the Swedish tax collectors that led to his exile to Germany gave him a new appreciation of the dangers of totalitarian impulses even in a supposedly "benign" welfare state like Sweden. "The Serpent's Egg" is a terrifying portrait of the human hubris that eventually led to Nazi experiments of human beings in the concentration camps. And despite the "mad scientist" trappings, it's a convincing, despairing examination of the fascist world view. Bergman fans should definitely take another look at this film. It really is a neglected treasure.
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