November 13, 1978 12:00 PM

Since the best of Ingmar Bergman’s films are so often agonizing, it’s something of a mystery why anyone should willingly sit through them. One answer is that there’s a catharsis involved in sharing the pain. In this case, though, there are two other reasons: Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann. In-grid, who has never given a greater performance and looks stunning at 63, plays an internationally successful pianist; Ullmann, purposely frumped up for the part, is her underachieving housewife daughter. (Linn Ullmann, daughter of Liv and the director, plays Liv as a girl in flashbacks.) The film penetrates the mother-daughter relationship the way Scenes from a Marriage probed husbands and wives—the insights into noncommunication and self-deception are devastating. Ingrid and Liv respond to each other, clashing and reconciling with looks and gestures, throughout the film. And when director Bergman fills the screen with close-ups of those two lovely, expressive faces, the film is as moving as any ever made. (Not rated)

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