Shame (1968 film)

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Shame 1968 film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Liv Ullmann
Max von Sydow
Sigge Fürst
Gunnar Björnstrand
Ulf Johansson
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Distributed by Lopert Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • 29 September 1968 (1968-09-29)
Running time
103 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Box office $250,000 (US)[1]

Shame (Swedish: Skammen) is a 1968 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, and starring Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow. The film explores shame, moral decline, self-loathing and violence through a politically uninvolved couple attempting to flee a war-ravaged European nation.

The film was shot on Fårö beginning in 1967, employing miniature models for war scenes. Shame was released during the Vietnam War, although Bergman denied it was a commentary on the real-life conflict. It won a few honors, including for Ullmann's performance. It is followed by Bergman's thematically-related 1969 film The Passion of Anna.


A husband and wife, Jan and Eva, are former violinists who are living on a farm on a rural island during a civil war. Their radio and telephone do not work, and Eva expresses frustration with Jan's apparent preference of escapism from the conflict, while they debate whether they can have children and if Jan is selfish. The couple visit the town, and hear a rumor that troops will soon come, and meet with an older man who has been called to duty.

When they return, their farmhouse becomes the site of a bloody siege. Jan and Eva are captured by the invading force and interviewed by a military journalist on camera, for a segment on the viewpoints of the "liberated" population. Eva initially seems indifferent to the conflict, but denies neutrality, and Jan declines to speak, and they are released. They are later captured again, and as soldiers interrogate them, the troops play the interview video which dubs over Eva's words with enemy language. This is primarily a scare tactic.

Eventually, they are released by Col. Jacobi, who had formerly served as the mayor. After the couple returns home, their relationship is strained. Jacobi becomes a regular, if not uncomfortably constant, visitor who treats them with gifts but also has the power to send the couple to a work camp. This relationship is manipulative. Jacobi convinces Eva to provide him with sexual favors in exchange for his bank account savings. They go into the green house to have sex while Jan is resting. He wakes, calling Eva's name. Eventually, he goes upstairs and finds Jacobi's savings on the bed and begins to cry. Eva enters, while Jacobi stays outside and turns to leave. She then comments to a weeping Jan that he can continue sobbing if he feels it will help. Soldiers arrive, and Jacobi explains his freedom can be bought, as the side of the war who is here is in desperate need of money. Jacobi, the soldiers, and Eva ask Jan for the money. Jan states he does not know what money they are talking about. The soldiers raid the house to look for it, in vain. They hand Jan a gun to execute Jacobi, and he does. After the soldiers leave, Jan reveals he had the money in his pocket, to Eva's disgust. This has split their relationship irreparably and causes repeated breakdowns. The relationship grows silent and cold. When Jan and Eva meet a young soldier, Eva wants to feed him and allow him to sleep. Jan violently takes him away to shoot and rob him.

Eva follows Jan towards the sea, and he uses the money from Jacobi in order to buy them seats on a fishing boat. While at sea, the boat's motor fails. The man steering the boat kills himself by lowering himself overboard. The boat later finds itself stuck in the middle of floating dead bodies, unable to move forward and continue. As the boat takes away the refugees, Eva tells Jan of her dream: she walks down a beautiful city street with a shaded park, until planes come and set fire to the city and its rose vines. She and Jan have had a daughter, who she is holding in her arms. They watch the roses burn, which she states "wasn't awful because it was so beautiful". She feels she had to remember something, but couldn't.



Author Jerry Vermilye wrote that in exploring "the thread of violence intruding on ordinary lives," Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame and The Passion of Anna represent a trilogy.[2] Author Amir Cohen-Shalev concurred the films form a trilogy.[3] In particular, Shame depicts the "disintegration of humanity in war."[4] The violence, which author Tarja Laine believed represented a civil war in Sweden, is depicted as "apparently meaningless."[5] Marc Gervais writes Shame, as a war film, does not address what either of the two sides of the war stand for, and does not venture into propaganda or a statement against totalitarianism, instead focusing on "human disintegration, this time extending it to a broader social dimension in the life of one small community."[6] The film delves into the concept of shame, associating it with the "moral failure with the self" bringing about a "traumatic configuration" in character, with Von Sydow's character developing from coward to murderer.[5]

Journalist Camilla Lundberg observed a pattern in Bergman's films that the protagonists are often musicians, though in an interview Bergman claimed he was not aware of such a trend.[7] Author Per F. Broman believed Shame fit this trend in that the characters are violinists, but remarked music did not seem very relevant to the plot.[7] Laine suggested memories of playing the violin represent an "if-only" theme, in which the characters imagine a better life they could have had.[8] Cohen-Shalev wrote that, like Persona and The Passion of Anna, Shame follows an "artist as fugitive" theme touching on issues of guilt and self hatred.[3]

Critic Renata Adler believed that "The 'Shame' of the title is God's."[9] However, other authors believe the film parts from Bergman's earlier works in being less concerned with God.[10][11][12]



Ingmar Bergman wrote the screenplay for Shame, completing it in spring 1967.[13] He explained the origin of the story:

The controversial Vietnam War was being fought at the time, and while Bergman denied the film was a statement on the conflict, he remarked that "Privately, my view of the war in Vietnam is clear. The war should have been over a long time ago and the Americans gone."[15] He also stated "As an artist, I am horror-stricken by what is happening in the world."[10] He envisioned Jan and Eva as Social Democrats since that party subsidized culture.[15]


Shooting began in September 1967.[13] The film was shot on the island Fårö, where the filmmakers had a house built to portray the Rosenberg residence.[16] The war scenes required trompe-l'œil effects, with Bergman and cinematographer Sven Nykvist burning miniature churches and making small streams look like violent rivers.[17] Nykvist also employed a substantial number of shots with hand-held cameras and zoom lenses.[15] More filming took place in Visby, Gotland, and wrapped up on 23 November.[18]

After shooting completed, Fårö's environmental regulations required the Rosenberg house be burned, but Bergman had developed an attachment to its appearance and saved it by claiming there were plans to use it in another film.[16] He began writing The Passion of Anna, and with Von Sydow and Ullmann still contracted to work with him, envisioned The Passion of Anna as "virtually a sequel."[16]


The film had its debut in the International Cinema Incontri in Sorrento, Italy, which Bergman could not attend due to an ear infection.[10] It opened in Stockholm on 29 September 1968.[18]

In North America, Skammen was released under the title Shame.[19] It opened in New York City on 12 December 1968.[18]


Critical reception[edit]

Liv Ullmann's performance was praised by Pauline Kael and she received the Guldbagge Award for Best Actress.

In Sweden, Mauritz Edström wrote in Dagens Nyheter that the film signified Bergman dealing less with his own inner conflict to something more contemporary and more important than one person.[14] Torsten Bergmark, also in Dagens Nyheter, wrote Bergman had found a new message, one of how a person without religion, Jan in this case, is left with self-loathing, while Eva is Bergman's "new solidarity."[20]

In the United States, Pauline Kael reviewed the film in The New Yorker in December 1968. She was an admirer of the film, writing "Shame is a masterpiece, ... a vision of the effect of war on two people." She praised Liv Ullmann as "superb in the demanding central role" and Gunnar Björnstrand as "beautifully restrained as an aging man clinging to the wreckage of his life."[21] Renata Adler, writing for The New York Times, called it "Dry, beautifully photographed, almost arid in its inspiration."[9] Judith Crist of New York called it "Bergman's definitive apocalyptic vision, painful and powerful." However, Crist added the kind of people who could learn from it did not usually watch Bergman films.[22]

In 2008, Roger Ebert gave Shame four stars, noting its timing during the Vietnam War and calling it "angry and bleak film that was against all war" and "a portrait of a couple torn from their secure lives and forced into a horrifying new world of despair." However, he remarked the film was less remembered than other Bergman films at the time of his writing.[23] In 2015, Drew Hunt of the Chicago Reader placed it in Bergman's top five films, judging it "A war film that's not actually about war."[24] The film has a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.[25]


The film was selected as the Swedish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 41st Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[26] Liv Ullmann won the award for Best Actress at the 6th Guldbagge Awards.[27]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Golden Globes 24 February 1969 Best Foreign Language Film Shame Nominated [28]
Guldbagge Awards 13 October 1969 Best Actress Liv Ullmann Won [27]
National Board of Review 10 January 1969 Best Actress Liv Ullmann Won [29]
1 January 1970 Best Foreign Language Film Shame Won [30]
Top Foreign Films Shame Won
National Society of Film Critics January 1969 Best Film Shame Won [31]
Best Director Ingmar Bergman Won
Best Screenplay Ingmar Bergman Runner-up
Best Actress Liv Ullmann Won
Best Cinematography Sven Nykvist Runner-up

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Balio 1987, p. 231.
  2. ^ Vermilye 2002, p. 133.
  3. ^ a b Cohen-Shalev 2002, p. 138.
  4. ^ Laine 2008, p. 60.
  5. ^ a b Laine 2008, p. 61.
  6. ^ Gervais 1999, p. 108.
  7. ^ a b Broman 2012, p. 17.
  8. ^ Laine 2008, p. 63.
  9. ^ a b Adler, Renata (24 December 1968). "Shame". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c Vermilye 2002, p. 128.
  11. ^ Bergom-Larsson 1978, p. 101.
  12. ^ Winter 2007, p. 42.
  13. ^ a b Marker 1992, p. 300.
  14. ^ a b "Shame". Ingmar Bergman Foundation. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c Ford, Hamish (March 2014). "Shame". Senses of Cinema, Issue 70. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c Gado 1986, p. 377.
  17. ^ Macnab 2009, p. 1.
  18. ^ a b c Steene 2005, p. 283.
  19. ^ Vermilye 2002, p. 130.
  20. ^ Steene 2005, p. 285.
  21. ^ Kael 2011.
  22. ^ Crist, Judith (13 January 1969). "Bergman's Basic Truth". New York. p. 54. 
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (4 August 2008). "Shame". Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  24. ^ Hunt, Drew (19 July 2015). "Ingmar Bergman's five best films". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  25. ^ "Skammen (Shame) (1968)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  26. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  27. ^ a b "Skammen (1968)". Swedish Film Institute. 2 March 2014. 
  28. ^ "Skammen". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  29. ^ "1968 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  30. ^ "1969 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 
  31. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 12 November 2016. 


  • Balio, Tino (1987). United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299114406. 
  • Bergom-Larsson, Maria (1978). Ingmar Bergman and Society. Tantivy Press. 
  • Broman, Per F. (2012). "Music, Sound, and Silence in the Films of Ingmar Bergman". Mind the Screen: Media Concepts According to Thomas Elsaesser. Routledge. 
  • Cohen-Shalev, Amir (2002). Both Worlds at Once: Art in Old Age. University Press of America. ISBN 0761821872. 
  • Gado, Frank (1986). The Passion of Ingmar Bergman. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822305860. 
  • Gervais, Marc (1999). Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 077352004X. 
  • Kael, Pauline (2011). "A Sign of Life". The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael. Library of America. ISBN 1598531719. 
  • Laine, Tarja (2008). "Failed Tragedy and Traumatic Love in Ingmar Bergman's Shame". Mind the Screen: Media Concepts According to Thomas Elsaesser. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 9089640258. 
  • Macnab, Geoffrey (2009). Ingmar Bergman: The Life and Films of the Last Great European Director. London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0857713574. 
  • Marker, Lise-Lone; Marker, Frederick J. (1992). Ingmar Bergman: A Life in the Theater. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521421217. 
  • Steene, Birgitta (2005). Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 9053564063. 
  • Vermilye, Jerry (1 January 2002). Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films. McFarland & Company Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-1160-3. 
  • Winter, Jessica; Hughes, Lloyd; Armstrong, Richard; Charity, Tom (2007). The Rough Guide to Film. Penguin Group. ISBN 1405384980. 

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