A Ship Bound For India - Movie Review

A Ship Bound for India (Swedish: Skepp till Indialand) is a 1947 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman.

A Ship to India (Skepp till India land) - Breaking Down Bergman - Episode 3

A Ship to India (Skepp till India land) - Breaking Down Bergman - Episode 3

Ingmar Bergman was not yet 30 years old when A Ship Bound for India, his third feature, was released in Sweden in 1947. A lifetime’s work lay ahead of him, a lifetime of articulating the themes that would dominate his films: mortality, the absence of faith, and love as an inevitable act of betrayal. His international renown, beginning with 1955’s Smiles of a Summer Night and assuming canonical status with 1957’s The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, was almost a dozen more production away, although this previously little seen melodrama, bitter and watchful, points the way.
Bergman’s protagonist is Johannes Blom (Birger Malmsten), the hunchbacked son of a salvage ship captain, who

A Ship Bound for India

A Ship Bound for India is a 1947 Swedish film

serves as his father’s first mate and stews under his dominance. Johannes lives with his father, Alex (Holger Lowenadler), and mother, Alice (Anna Lindahl) on their boat. They are joined by Sally (Gertrud Fridh), Alex’s mistress, when he learns that he is losing his sight – and thus his dominance of those around him – and decides to have what he wants before it is too late. Once on board, Sally grows closer to Johannes, stoking Alex’s anger.

Much of the movie is set below decks, in confined spaces where bodies intrude on each other; Alice first sees Sally when the latter comes down a set of stairs, her elegant shoes and shapely ankles literally heralding a change of circumstance. The tone alternates between angry confrontations and exhausted confessions, harking back to the theatre Bergman had already spent years in. The technical departments are not yet at the director’s service: the score’s opening fanfare sounds like it belongs on a thriller, while Bergman did not yet have Sven Nykvist as his director of photography.

Most notably, A Ship Bound for India is told from Johannes’ viewpoint, the angry young man, but it is Alex, played with a brusque self-loathing by Lowenadler, whose actions herald ideas that Bergman would pursue in future productions. He’s the character who comes to the fore, railing against his loss, and he attracts Bergman’s gaze. Scenes From a Marriage begins in this patriarch’s panic.

by Craig Mathieson