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Acting ingenue Mai Zetterling found her breakthrough role in Alf Sjöberg's game-changing film penned by a young Ingmar Bergman.
Jan-Erik, an idealistic student nearing graduation, finds himself under the increased scrutiny of Caligula, his cruel Latin teacher. One evening he crosses paths with Bertha (Mai Zetterling), a troubled young shop assistant, staggering through the streets, drunk and frightened. Bertha is unable to escape the clutches of a tormentor of her own.
Although Sweden has a long and distinguished history of filmmaking, Torment was very much borne out of Swedish theatre, in particular the intersections of three careers at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. The film’s director, Alf Sjöberg, was the theatre’s lead director at the time and when he cast the film he offered the role of Bertha to a young actor studying at the theatre under his tutelage, Mai Zetterling. The film was written by a young Ingmar Bergman, an up-and-coming theatre director who looked up to Sjöberg, and was known by many of the acting students at the time.
The film screened in competition the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946. As the war had only ended one year before, most films screening in competition were connected in some way to war. Torment – as a rebuke of fascism – is no exception. The film tied for the inaugural Grand Prix and is credited as a significant turning point in Swedish cinema.
– Reece Goodwin, Curator (TV & Special Events)