The Serpent’s Egg (1977)

aka Das Schlangenei
Article 4917 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-3-2015
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Liv Ullmann, David Carradine, Gert Frobe
Country: USA / West Germany
What it is: Period drama

An alcoholic Jew who was once a member of a circus acrobat team finds himself trying to survive in Berlin during the economic collapse of the nineteen-twenties.

It’s been a while since I’ve covered any works by Ingmar Bergman for this series. This one was filmed in English with an international cast, and though it is well-produced and directed, it remains a bit of a disappointment. This is not to say that the movie is bad; far from it; it’s a solid and quite dark drama about an important subject, but from Bergman, we expect something more in the philosophical department that doesn’t seem to be present here. Part of the problem may be David Carradine’s performance as the main character; it’s very difficult to understand or care about his character because he remains something of a cipher. As for the fantastic content, I’m not sure the movie really qualifies as well; the latter doesn’t really show up until the end of the movie, where we discover the truth about the clinic at which Carradine’s character is working, and though it’s certainly horrific (think of the experiments of Dr Mengele), it doesn’t quite turn into horror. My favorite scene is the one which I feel is the most Bergmanesque; it involves a cameo by James Whitmore as a priest who proves singularly unhelpful to Liv Ullmann’s character. It’s an interesting movie, but again, it’s not Bergman at his most compelling.


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