Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Bergman's Latest is a Soft "Touch"

Cleveland Press October 1, 1971

The best thing Ingmar Bergman fans can do right now is to avoid his latest film, "The Touch." For if they are looking for the depth, symbolism, mysticism, enigmas and the sheer virtuosity of the Swedish writer-director's previous work, they will be disappointed.

"The Touch" is pure soap opera. It is not even good soap opera for it is mawkish, banal and dull.

Part of the problem may be that Berman was working in English for the first time. The dialog is ordinary but if the notion was to make it sound genuine in its use of the ordinary, it fails. There is little variety, no nuances; just flat, unrevealing sentences.

Such Bergman regulars as Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson, even acting in another tongue, manage to look and sound good anyway. For Miss Andersson it is a superb portrayal, far better than the material provides or deserves.

American actor Elliott Gould, on the other hand, is a sparrow trying to fly with the eagles. His is a performance that would be bad under any circumstances but in the present company looks absolutely awful.

Most of the time he is catatonic. The rest of the time he is flying into ridiculous rages. Most of his delivery is utterly flat.

In "The Touch" Miss Andersson is a 34-year-old married woman with two children. Her husband, von Sydow, is a successful surgeon and their 15-year-old marriage seems reasonably happy, or at least, placid.

Elliott Gould is a visiting American archeologist who instantly tells Miss Anderson that he loves her. She, almost as instantly, goes to his apartment and their affair begins.

Why Gould should attract her is never clear. He is neurotic, erratic and given to violent fits of rage when not mooning about in the depths of depression.

"I must go." "No, don't go." "I need you."

That's the kind of dialog which the actors deliver as though they were terribly profound thoughts.

There are traces of the Bergman style but they are either weak or heavy-handed. The love scenes are less erotic than they are crude.

A statute of the Virgin is discovered in a church wall, having been there for hundreds of years. Now it is being destroyed from within by insects who had hatched from eggs that had been there all that time. Gould? Miss Andersson?

Bergman may have dealt with larger truths in the past. This time he is concerned only with small people.

Which would be all right except that the people are not real.