DVD Review: Face to Face

There’s one reason to see Ingmar Bergman’s 1976 drama, but it’s a compelling one: Liv Ullmann’s performance, which is among the greatest in any movie. (She was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Network’s Faye Dunaway.)

Ullmann takes a role that would seem like trouble on the face of it — a psychiatrist who is herself slowly going crazy — and peels away the persona, layer by layer, until there’s nothing left but the small, crying child at its center. Still, there’s something even more startling than the actress’s total control: When the film is over, we’re left with the realization that her character’s story could be almost anyone’s.

The film around that work of genius isn’t perfect. It’s too long, and Bergman goes far overboard with dream sequences and the melodramatic color contrasts inside them. There is one quiet, chilling scene near the midway point that’s about as good as anything else the director ever did. Basically, however, you’re watching Face to Face for Ullmann.

The transfer of the movie for this DVD-only release is adequate, but not much more. The 1.78:1 image is on the soft side, though skin tones and the lighting are usually good. The Dolby Digital mono track, which exhibits a certain amount of wear, is muffled at some points and distorted at others. I’ve seen and heard lots worse, though, and we should be happy just to have this movie in circulation. There are no extras.