The great Ingmar Bergman's debut is an uninteresting melodrama.
Part of Early Bergman, #1 of Criterion Collection's Eclipse Series, a budget boxset including important films from famous directors, Crisis is also Bergman's feature film debut.
A story about a girl Lenny (Inga Landgré) caught between her foster mother Ingeborg (Dagny Lind) and her real mother Jenny (Marianne Löfgren) who had abandoned her for 18 years, whom she calls 'auntie' and who has now come back to take her back.
There is almost no backstory as to how this arrangement came about but we are just asked to get along with it. In a more successful film, this might even have lent a little mystery, making the audience imagine their stories. But here, because it is the service of a rather judgemental dram, it just makes them come across as shallow.
Lenny is romantically pursued by Ingeborg's tenant Ulf (Allan Bohlin) and spurns his advances by calling him an "old man". Eventually, she is more attracted to the younger Jack (Stig Olin), an out-of-work "artist" living off her mother who also happens to be Jenny's mother. By the end, the film seems to be pushing the moral of listening to maturity rather than the impetuousness of youth. It is a kind of simplistic message that Bergman later detested.
Still, there are some flourishes that stand out and would later become the director's style. Though not photographed by Sven Nykvist, Bergman's regular cinematographer, the film has an excellent cinematic style that the director would only perfect in later films.
Performances are generally good, but once again, the stodgy characterization does the actors disservice. Stig Olin stands out as he gradually reveals layers. Initially a good-for-nothing seducer, he displays a genuine charm and later a tragic awareness of his situation.
Crisis has become more famous for Bergman himself declaring it his 'worst'. He had a hard time finishing this film and ultimately, 'the father of Swedish film', the legendary Victor Sjöström was called to supervise its completion. The results, as noted, are not great but Bergman completists would still like to take a look. It will be an interesting exercise to look at the director's progression.
The Eclipse Series generally come without any special features but the crisp, deep contrast presentation makes up for that here.