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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Shame (Blu-ray)
Shame (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection // R // February 5, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted February 11, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Directed by Ingmar Bergman and released in 1968, Shame (or Skammen in its native Sweden) stars Bergman regulars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as Jan and Eva Rosenberg. They're two musicians who live a quiet life together on a remote farm located on an island far removed from the war-torn mainland. They live there hoping that the civil war that they've tried to get away from will end sooner rather than later, but it's clear that they're stressed out about all of this. When troops eventually do make their way onto the island, their situation obviously becomes much worse. As the military struggle around them pulls them deeper in, their personalities change and so too does their relationship with one another, eventually being forced to abide by Colonel Jacobi (Gunnar Bjönstrand) in order to get the food they need to survive.

Shame hits hard, it's a powerful film that does an excellent job of explaining the futility and sadness inherent in war. The Rosenberg's have, when the film begins, a not so faint glimmer of hope. As the war expands and they become drawn into it, we see first-hand how they break down, not becoming better people the way they might in a more mainstream picture dealing with this subject but instead suffering more and more. The fact that the characters are essentially neutral, not taking sides in the conflict that threatens to engulf them, but forced to make nice with Jacobi, who clearly has ill intentions for Eva. She, and to a lesser degree Jan, go along with all of this not because they want to but because they have to, and it's heartbreaking because we know they won't be able to distance themselves from this. They're effectively forced to sacrifice what they have together simply to survive, the changes made here are permanent.

Shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who employed a lot of handheld camera work, giving certain scenes an almost ‚Äėdocumentary feel' that helps to put us in the situation that the characters in the film experience. The visuals here impress and have some serious impact to them. We see very clearly and without the glamorization that Hollywood might use to gloss over them the impact that the horrors of war have on the small island. The Rosenbergs' neighbors are killed, the whole area becomes a battlefield. The black and white cinematography captures this at times almost as if it were a newsreel. An image as simple as the sight of two planes flying over top of a small wooden building carries with it immense weight, it's quite foreboding, particularly as we know the characters see it as a sign of things to come.

The performances are very strong. All of the work that Von Sydow and Ullmen did with Bergman is excellent, and their work in Shame is just as good as anything else that they did with the director. They're believable here, their relationship never feels forced or phony and they act like actual human beings do, their flaws often times coming to the forefront of the drama inherent in the storyline. Bergman directs with skill, controlling the pacing of them film and keeping things interesting throughout. He ensures that we're interested in what will happen to these people. The film is blunt, never uncertain in what it wants us to see or how it wants us to see it. If it isn't a pleasant journey, it's still one well worth taking simply because it is so well-done and so moving.

The Video:

The Criterion Collection brings Shame to Blu-ray framed at 1.37.1 and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc in a transfer taken from a new 2K restoration. The black and white image is excellent. Detail is very strong and contrast looks fine. We get solid blacks, clean whites and a nice greyscale. Detail is very strong and there's good depth and texture present throughout the presentation. The picture is also very film-like, showing the expected amount of natural grain but only mild print damage here and there. The picture is free of any noticeable noise reduction or compression artifacts.

The Audio:

The LPCM Swedish language Mono track is clean, clear and properly balanced and the optional English subtitles easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors. This is a reasonably dialogue-heavy film and not a picture full of action, and the original mono mix suits all of this just fine. The track is free of any hiss or distortion, and it sounds just fine.

The Extras:

Extras start with a brief excerpt from a press conference for the film, recorded in 1967, that runs five-minutes. It's basically a quick look at the story of the film followed by a brief interview where Bergman is asked about the influence of the Vietnam War on this film. There's also a segment included here that was shot in 1968 for a Swedish television show called Forum where he speaks for fifteen-minutes about the effects of war on people, how this is reflected in the film and the politics, or lack thereof, that are featured in Shame.

Criterion also provides a new interview with actor Liv Ullmann where she speaks about this period in Bergman's career, offers some insight into the films that they made together and what it was like working with him, pressures that this put on her personal life and Bergman's creative process. It's an interesting and genuinely heartfelt piece well worth taking the time to appreciate.

Also included on the disc is An Introduction To Ingmar Bergman, which is a 1968 documentary made during the film's production that is made up of a very lengthy interview with Bergman. This piece runs over seventy-minutes in length and it covers quite a bit of ground, detailing many of the film that he had made up to this point in his career and featuring some behind the scenes footage and interviews with some of the actors he was working with as well.

Menus and chapter selection finish off the extras on the disc, but inside the clear keepcase is an insert booklet containing some notes on the restoration as well as credits for the feature and for the Blu-ray release, accompanied by an essay by critic Michael Sragow that explores the themes that Bergman dives into with this particular entry in his filmography.


Shame is a decidedly grim film that takes us into some very dark territory, but so too is it a remarkably engrossing picture. Bergman draws us in with powerful imagery and carefully crafted characters while the performances from Von Sydow and Ullman are excellent. Criterion's Blu-ray looks and sounds very nice and there's a strong selection of extra features included on the disc as well. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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