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With "Night Games" (1966), which she co-wrote with her then husband, British novelist David Hughes, Mai Zetterling matches Bergman's filmic sophistication on every level of filmic storytelling.
This is filmmaking at its finest.
This thoroughly original work of social satire delves into the heart of childhood traumas, while taking sharp aim at '60s era European sensibilities around free-love and the narcissistic values of the bourgeoisie.
Jan (Keve Hjelm) brings his fiancée Mariana (Lena Brundin) to his childhood home, a wealthy mansion estate full of horrific memories and rich furnishings. Jan indoctrinates Mariana into his debauched upbringing. Flashback sequences detail the atrocious actions of Jan's mentally unstable mother Irene (Ingrid Thulin).
Freud's oedipal complex takes center stage in Jan's ambitious attempt at reconciling sins of the mother by annihilating all that her sexual abuse and wealth had created.
Jörgen Lindström, the young actor from Ingmar Bergman's "The Silence," and "Persona," is the film's empathetic center as Jan's boyhood version.
"Night Games" retains its ability to shock viewers after over 50 years due to Mai Zetterling's intuitive ability to dig equally into the male and female psyche, while keeping a pure artistic metaphoric vision. This is the gift of liberation that Mai Zetterling gives her audience.
At last Jan and Mariana are set free to grow their relationship in fresh soil.
Side note: If I'm not mistaken, "Night Games" is John Waters's favorite film!
Not Rated. 105 mins.