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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


(aka "Anna" or "Sarabande')
Sweden 2003


Ingmar Bergman is back. With a vengeance. "Saraband" is not what might be expected from a venerable director with six decades of experience who will turn 87 next week. But Bergman has never been an ordinary filmmaker, and what he's given us is no genial last hurrah but rather an intensely dramatic, at times lacerating examination of life's conundrums that is exhilarating in its fearlessness and its command.

Named after a 17th century court dance, "Saraband" is the Swedish writer-director's first serious look at family relationships since 1983's "Fanny and Alexander." Characterized by costar Liv Ullmann as the most personal film Bergman has ever made, it is also proof that he still has both the passion for exploring psychological intricacies and the gifts to make that passion indelible.

"Fanny and Alexander" was announced as the director's last film (as has this one). But he's since done projects for Swedish television (where "Saraband" originated) and written scripts for other directors. Trying to make sense of life is not just a profession or even a calling, it's who Bergman is at the core of his being.

That unwavering attitude means that Bergman's scripts are never done full justice when other, less involved directors bring them to the screen. So we are especially fortunate that this film, with its unblinking examination of the stifling nature of love as well as love's unnerving proximity to hate, was one Bergman felt strongly enough about to handle himself.

Because two of its four characters (Erland Josephson's Johan and Ullmann's Marianne) appeared as estranged husband and wife in 1973's "Scenes From a Marriage," "Saraband" is being inaccurately talked about as a kind of sequel. In fact, Bergman seems to have used these characters simply because he was familiar with them; there's nothing you need to know about their history that the present film doesn't immediately tell you.

"Saraband" is broken up into a prologue and nine chapters, almost all of them dialogues between two of the film's characters (the source, presumably, of the dance title). The prologue is an exception, as Marianne faces the camera and casually catches us up on what's happened with her and Johan over the decades. Besides filling us in on events like Johan's retirement with inherited money, the monologue combines with Ullmann's empathetic qualities to establish a kind of complicity between the audience and the characters. More or less on a whim, Marianne has decided to visit Johan after an absence of 32 years. She finds him creaky physically, wary of intimacy ("Are you going to start hugging?" he asks fearfully) and worried that he's lived "a meaningless, idiotic life."


The most remarkable thing about "Saraband" is that Bergman makes this kind of intensely emotional filmmaking look simple. The ease with which the director calls forth the most deep-seated and complex emotions from his actors is helped by their skill and the decades they've worked with him, but it's nevertheless exceptional.

Bergman shot "Saraband" on digital video without a designated cinematographer, and though that format's user-friendliness made this film possible, it's difficult to watch without lamenting the absence of the texture and richness that shooting on old-fashioned film provides.

Seeing "Saraband" also reminds us how much we're missing by not having pictures like this as part of our regular moviegoing menu. Bergman's style of filmmaking seems to come not from the last century but rather another universe altogether, one that we've abandoned, to our loss.

In some ways sadder than anything else are the Swedish words that close "Saraband": "Manus och regi Ingmar Bergman" (written and directed by Ingmar Bergman). They are words we're not likely to see on a new release ever again, and having them end this quite marvelous film makes us realize yet again how much the world of cinema will miss him once he's gone.

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan's Review at the Los Angeles Times located HERE



Posters and Alternate DVD cover

Theatrical Release: December 1st, 203 - Swedish TV

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DVD Comparison:

 Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL

(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC LEFT vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover


Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC

Tartan - Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:51:32  1:46:51 (4% PAL speedup)
Video 1.75:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.1 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.80 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Sony

Bitrate:  Tartan

Audio Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, French, Portuguese, None English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.75:1

Edition Details:

• 'The Making of Saraband' (43:48 - widescreen 4:3 with burned-in English subtitles)
• Previews

DVD Release Date: January 10th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Behind Saraband (43:53 / 16x9)
• Persona Trailer (2:32 / 4:3)
• Autumn Sonata Trailer (2:23 / 4:3)

DVD Release Date: March 27, 2006
Keep Case

Chapters 16




ADDITION: - Tartan - Region 2- PAL (March 06'): The two transfers are basically identical. Only when zooming in, does Tartan reveal slightly more variation in colors in the pixels. For normal viewing, this is undetectable and as such negligible.

As for the transfer itself, it is flawless, without any artifacts, kept in its original color scheme. It looks stunning.

 - Henrik Sylow


Magnificent transfer from Sony Pictures - the sharpness and detail are quite impressive. I don't suspect any manipulations and colors look film-like (although shot digitally) and theatrically accurate. Audio is 2.0 channel and consistent throughout. Subtitles seem to capture all the translatable dialogue and my one complaint is a common one - the yellow subtitles. In the informative featurette 'The Making of Saraband' a no-nonsense Bergman again assures us that this is his last effort and I have no reason to disbelieve him. The film is a beautiful work of art and this digital edition merits a premature ranking as the best DVD of the Year so far. It may maintain that same status many months from now. It has our highest recommendation.    

There is an MK2 Region 2 PAL edition of the film HERE (and a Swedish one too I believe) that made our DVD of the Year poll but I have no seen it and am unfamiliar with the transfer, extras etc. Nor am I even aware if it has English subtitles.

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus

(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC LEFT vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


Subtitle Sample


(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)




Screen Captures


(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)




(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)




(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)




(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)



(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)



(Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Tartan - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)


DVD Box Cover


Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1, 4 - NTSC

Tartan - Region 2 - PAL


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