Sawdust and Tinsel (Gycklarnas afton) (Directors Suite) (1953)

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Released 14-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Dr Hamish Ford
Featurette-Bergman and the Cinema
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 88:34 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ingmar Bergman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Åke Grönberg
Harriet Andersson
Hasse Ekman
Anders Ek
Gudrun Brost
Annika Tretow
Erik Strandmark
Gunnar Björnstrand
Curt Löwgren
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Karl-Birger Blomdahl

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This 1953 work from Ingmar Bergman represents something of a nexus between his earlier films, which dealt mainly with doomed or problematic love, and his later more personal films about death, religion and general angst. The traveling Alberti Circus is a decrepit, flea-bitten affair which has had to leave some of its costumes in lieu of payment in the previous town. Owner Albert Johansson (Åke Grönberg) has a pretty young mistress in Anne (Harriet Andersson) and a motley crew of circus types, including the clown Frost (Anders Ek) whose mentally disturbed wife Alma is the subject of a disconcerting flashback sequence at the start of the film. Albert has a wife and three sons in the next town that the circus travels to, and Anne worries that he is considering throwing over the circus and moving back in with his family.

    In the town Albert is forced to beg for costumes from a theatrical company led by Sjuberg (Gunnar Björnstrand), and Anne catches the eye of the company's lead actor Frans (Hasse Ekman). When Albert heads off to see his sons and wife, the jealous Anne heads for the theatre.

    The theme of the film seems to be humiliation, mainly the humiliation that love and the need for love and security brings. Throw in a bit of religious symbolism - Frost and Alma could almost be Adam and Eve in the flashback sequence - and you have a melting pot of ideas that could easily come across as laboured and banal. But in the hands of Bergman it is virtually a masterpiece, with some stunning performances by all of the actors, especially Grönberg, Ekman and Ek. Sven Nykvist's first lensing job for Bergman (although he didn't do the whole film) is also splendid, with beautiful close-ups amongst all of those over-decorated sets. Perhaps the fascination with Andersson's ample cleavage is a little too obvious, though understandable given she was having an affair with the director at the time.

    It is a pity that in video terms this release does not seem to be up to the level of the Region 1 equivalent. However if you are able to accept second best, there are some good extras on this disc and it is certainly worth a look. Don't be put off by the cover art!

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I watched this PAL video upscaled to 1920x1080i.

    Disappointingly this is not the cleaned-up Criterion transfer but appears to be the same transfer as the Region 2 release. There are a lot of film artefacts, ranging from tramline scratches, specks and occasional larger marks to reel change markings and even a hair briefly in the bottom of the frame. Contrast levels are generally okay, especially later in the film. The flashback sequence is deliberately set at a higher contrast so that blacks are crushed and whites are washed out, but the rest of the film is better. The image also flickers noticeably.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to a couple of instances of excessive noise reduction, most noticeable at 83:13 where the windows of Albert's trailer move out of sync with the trailer itself. There is also a slight halo of sorts around figures and objects in some sequences. I don't think this is actually edge enhancement but an artefact on the film itself caused by reprinting from the negative.

    Optional English subtitles are available which, apart from one typographical error where the letter L is substituted for the letter I, are very well done and quite easy to read. Madman have also seen fit to include a choice of yellow or white subtitles, which will allow both cinema purists and those weaned on SBS's color scheme to be satisfied.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change causing an abrupt silence at 71:28. It also interrupts the audio commentary.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    I had no trouble hearing the dialogue and although I could not understand it it seemed that the audio was clear. It is not particularly clean though, with a near-constant crackling sound in the background. This crackling only becomes noticeable during passages of silence.

    The audio has a slight digital edge to it but it is quite serviceable and does the film no disservice. There were no issues with audio sync.

    The film contains an excellent score by Karl-Birger Blomdahl, which ironically comments on the story with distorted circus music and also uses discordance to good effect during the flashback sequence. It seems to have been his only score for a theatrical film, mores the pity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio and Animation

    The animation is based around the same picture as on the cover slick, and the audio is some music from the film soundtrack.

Audio Commentary by Dr Hamish Ford

    Dr Hamish Ford is a lecturer in Film Studies at Newcastle University. He is obviously a Bergman expert, as he goes into considerable detail about Bergman's career and places this film in that context, as well as comparing it to his style in other films. There are few dead spots and this is an easy to listen to, fluently-delivered commentary without too much in the way of film school babble.

Featurette-Bergman and the Cinema (58:28)

    This 2004 documentary is one of three directed by Marie Nyreröd for Swedish television. Bergman is shown at his home and visiting his old studio in Stockholm. He discusses his films and approach to cinema, amongst other things, and recalls his first childhood experiences with a mini film projector. There are numerous excerpts from his films, old interviews and home movie footage taken on sets. The programme is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in Swedish with English subtitles. Oddly there are occasional text titles on screen in English, which also have English subtitles, but the text differs slightly. I imagine the subtitles were done from the Swedish version and then superimposed over the English version.

Trailers (11:07)

    Four trailers for other Directors Suite releases, being Rififi, The Quiet Duel, The Front Page and The Leopard.

Liner Notes

    The liner has a biography and filmography of the director.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released in several countries. The obvious benchmark against which to measure the Region 4 is the Region 1 release from Criterion. In comparison to the Madman, the Criterion misses out on:

    In comparison to the Criterion, the Madman misses out on

    Based on the screencaps available on the web, the Criterion has the superior video transfer and on this basis is to be preferred, although it is more expensive.

    There is also a UK Region 2 release from Tartan Video, which is on a single-layer disc. The only extras are a couple of trailers and a liner essay. Based on a review of this disc it sounds as though the source material for that transfer is the same as the Region 4, as the audio and video artefacts tally up.

    I have seen no reviews of the Swedish Region 2 release, which appears to include no extras or subtitles.


    Possibly the first of Bergman's films to show his mature personality, this is well worth seeing although the Region 1 transfer is to be preferred.

    The video quality is good in terms of the transfer, but the source material is less than pristine.

    The audio quality is scratchy but reasonably clear.

    Madman have provided a better set of extras than in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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