About the film

Thirst, a collection of short stories by Birgit Tengroth (b. 1915), was published in 1948. Svensk Filmindustri had acquired the rights to the book and commissioned Herbert Grevenius to marry the stories together into a coherent narrative for film. When Ingmar Bergman was asked to direct the result, he asked the author to play the part of Viola.

Bergman in Images: My Life in Film

'I felt intensely that I needed her cooperation on several levels. In her discreet, tactful way he helped me shape the lesbian episode. This was, at that time, inflammatory stuff, and, of course, the film censors cut a substantial piece of the dramatic scene between Birgit Tengroth and Mimi Nelson, a cut that renders the end of the sequence incomprehesible.'


Sources of inspiration

The French critic and fellow director François Truffaut has noted similarities between Thirst and two films by Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion and Rich and Strange. Just like Hitchcock, Truffaut observes, Bergman presents a dialogue between a man and a woman with the help of almost imperceptible yet eloquent gestures, backed up by precise, stylised looks between them.

Independently of Truffaut, Bergman himself in Images put this technique down to a lesson he learned from one of the film's principal actors:

Birgit Tengroth also made a directorial contribution that I will not forget; it taught me something new and decisive. The two women are sitting together in the summer twilight, sharing a bottle of wine. Birgit is rather drunk and gets a cigarette from Mimi, who also lights it for her. Then Mimi slowly brings the burning match toward her own face and holds it for a moment by her right eye before it goes out. This was Birgit Tengroth's idea. I remember it clearly since I had never done anything like that. To bild the plot with small, almost imperceptible, suggestive details became a special component in my future filmmaking.

Shooting the film

Shooting the interiors for Thirst began on 15 March 1949, coming to an end less than a month later on 9 April. Shooting the exteriors began on 29 June, ending on 5 July.

Bergman in Images: My Life in Film

A large part of the film takes place during a train journey through was-torn Germany. In Prison I had begun to experiment with longer takes. In order to develop that technique, we had to bild a monstrous train car, one that could be taken apart in different sections. The clumsy camera used at the time could them roam around freely in compartments, corridors, and other spaces. The long scenes in Prison had come about for economical reasons. Here I was striving for another simplification: for complicated camera movements to go undetected. The studio train was far from perfect: you can see the seams if you look closely. Furthermore, I had wanted the ruins of buildings, seen through the train window, to be actually filmed in Germany, but that couldn't be done for reasons of economy. The homemade result was a less than convincing compromise. Other than that, Thirst (Known as Three Strange Loves in the United States) does show a respectable cinematographic vitality. I was developing my own way of making movies. I made myself master the ungainly machinery, and it functioned by and large as I wanted it to funtion. That was always a triumph.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.

Film facts

Distribution titles

Dürst (West Germany)
La fontaine d'Aréthuse (France)
Jano (Finland)
Sete (Italy)
La soif (Belgium)
La soif (France)
Three Strange Loves (USA)
Tørst (Norway)
Tørst (Denmark)

Production details

Production country: Sweden
Swedish distributor (35 mm): Svensk Filmindustri, Svenska Filminstitutet
Laboratory: Svensk Filmindustris filmlaboratorium
Production company: Svensk Filmindustri
Make up: Firma Carl M. Lundh AB
Original work: Törst (Collection of novels) by Birgit Tengroth

Aspect ratio: 1,37:1
Colour system: Black and white
Sound system: AGA-Baltic
Original length (minutes): 84

Censorship: 075.844
Date: 1949-09-24
Age limit: 15 years and over
Length: 2280 metres

Release date: 1949-10-17, Spegeln, Stockholm, Sweden, 84 minutes

Filming locations

(1949-03-15-1949-04-09)
Sweden, Filmstaden Råsunda, (studio)
Sweden, Stockholm (exteriors)
Sweden, Ornö (exteriors)
Schweiz, Basel (exteriors)

Music

Title: Non più andrai. From Le nozze di Figaro
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1786)
Lyrics: Lorenzo Da Ponte (Italian lyrics 1786) Bernhard Crusell (Swedish lyrics 1821)
Performed by: Bengt Eklund

Title: A Hupfata
Comment: Instrumental.

Title:  Le chevaleresque
Composer: Friedrich Burgmüller
Comment: Instrumental.

Title:  The Black and White Rag
Composer: George Botsford (1908)
Comment: Instrumental.

Title:  Faut jamais dire ça aux femmes
Composer: Henri Christiné

Reviews and comments

Robin Hood in Stockholms-Tidningen: 

A disturbingly stark film, alarming yet true to life. It is like wandering through hell on earth. For those unfortunate enough to be there, there is no hope. The door has slammed behind them. Yet a small chink of light is visible under that door: Rut (Eva Henning) and Bertil (Birger Malmsten) love each other, after all, despite the fact that they poison each other's existence. They do have each other – in the midst of all the poison – they are not alone. But the isolation of Viola (Birgit Tengroth) and Valborg (Mimi Nelson) is unmitigated. Chilling, unbearable.

George Svensson in Bonniers Litterära Magasin:

Now we have a film of the book, as is so often the case with bestsellers, but unlike what one has come to expect, this is no watered-down version of the original. Neither is Ingmar Bergman a man to tone things down or take out the air brush where there is acrimony or an open wound. This is raw material to his own taste, and he has treated it with commitment, without, so to speak, trumping it with an ace from his own hand. This film of Thirst remains the work of Birgit Tengroth with Ingmar Bergman as the skilful presenter. A profound debt is also due to Herbert Grevenius who, from these kaleidoscopic short story fragments, has managed to piece together a coherent story, or at least a complex narrative with frequent use of flashbacks. Only in a couple of cases, most notably the episode in which the lieutenant comes to an agreement with the women in his life and pays a visit to the 'psychiatrist', has the screenplay oversimplified the original.

 

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people

Eva Henning
Birger Malmsten
Birgit Tengroth
Hasse Ekman
Mimi Nelson
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"A disturbingly stark film, alarming yet true to life. It is like wandering through hell on earth."

Robin Hood in Stockholms-Tidningen