Waiting Women is a sort of anthology film telling the collective story of marriage. There are five women gathered early in the film. These women are all having issues in their marriage. At the four-minute mark Bergman captures the five women at five different fields of depth in a stunner of a shot. In the foreground left is Maj-Britt Nilsson (back with Bergman from Summer Interlude in 1951). Within the same shot Bergman’s camera moves in for a closeup of the second of the five women. These women are literally waiting (hence the title). In the same shot (it is a masterful shot) Bergman then tilts back to Nilsson (playing Marta) and then eventually pushes the camera back forward to the fourth woman. Anita Bjork plays Rakel and Eva Dahlbeck plays Karin.
This is the first of twelve archiveable films for Gunnar Björnstrand- a Bergman acting troupe regular.
Bergman bounces shots off the water to show the passage of time as part of the formal structure.
At the 30-minute mark, after the telling of one marriage, Bergman resets going back to that sublime composition of the five women. This time the story is about Maj-Britt Nilsson’s Marta. She is in love with Bergman regular Birger Malmsten (as Martin). Gunnar plays Martin’s uptight brother Fredrik.
Bergman’s world is a form of realism. This is in contrast to Hollywood and it is not genre cinema. Bergman’s milieu is not working-class war ravaged settings like Rossellini, De Sica and Visconti (during this stretch) but still- Waiting Women includes topics of suicide, infidelity, pregnancy out of wedlock and nudity (in the burlesque show).
A flashback within a flashback for Nilsson’s character as she is having a baby with Birger’s character.
At the 75-minute mark the film returns to the composition of the five women (or really four women and one younger girl who is about to be a woman). This girl gives Bergman an opportunity to discuss the purity of young love and lust before age and marriage destroy it all.
The next flashback story is for Karin (Dahlbeck). She has a prolonged conversation with her husband (Gunnar’s character) in the car. Bergman’s ambitions designing cinematic compositions shows promise here. Even a long dialogue scene in a car between a married couple (not the most cinematic of setups) is thoughtfully laid out. Karin is foreground left and Björnstrand’s Fredrik is in the backseat (background) right of the frame.
It is a little bothersome that not all the women in the film’s reoccurring composition in the cottage gets a chance to tell their story. One says, “I have nothing to tell”. Still- this is a strong formal work- an anthology film with a common theme.
Recommend—still a little lighter in tone then Bergman’s work when he ultimately finds his voice in the late 1950s. The feeling of contentment at the conclusion of the film is a little uneven given what proceeds it.
@Malith- thank you for your help