A Ship to India (1947)

ship to india poster 1947 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Average Bergman is still decent

Story needs more fleshing out

Movie Info

Movie Name: A Ship to India

Studio:  Sveriges Folkbiografer

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 1947 (Cannes Film Festival)/September 22, 1947 (Sweden)/August 26, 1949 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

ship to india birger malmsten holger lowenadler hd

Remember that time Dad mocked my disability? We sure laughed about that at Christmas

Johannes Blom (Birger Malmsten) has returned to his home after travelling the world for seven years, and Blom recalls what set him to sea.  He remembers growing up with a handicap that scarred him, an abusive father (Holger Löwenadler), a passive mother (Anna Lindahl), and the arrival of his father’s mistress Sally (Gertrud Fridh).  The events that unfolded forced Johannes to finally keep his promise to himself, but in returning home, Johannes finds he has another promise to keep.

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, A Ship to India (Skepp till Indialand) is a family drama which often goes by the title A Ship Bound for India.  Following Bergman’s It Rains on Our Love in 1946, the film adapts the play Skepp till India land by Martin Söderhjelm and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film as part of the Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema box set.

When Bergman is good, he’s great, but average Bergman is still generally good despite not always being memorable.  Even though A Ship to India is an adaptation, the movie feels very “Bergman” with family drama, detached characters, and damaged pasts.

ship to india father attempted murder son holger lowenadler hd

Remember that time Dad tried to murder me? We sure laughed about that at Christmas

The film is about promises broken and kept.  Blom’s father should have been a father and husband to his family, but he became bitter and jaded.  The film goes to great means to paint him as a villain but also tries (but fails) to give him some redeeming moments.  Johannes is in danger of following in his father’s footsteps if he doesn’t escape.  Unlike his father, Johannes keeps his promises even if it takes seven years.  It is a painful and reminder what years of abuse (even primarily verbal) can do to people.

Birger Malmsten character is meant to have a humped back.  I didn’t know this until it was told in the film, but that also could be part of the idea.  His identity has been shaped by this birth defect which to him and his family is the world…but to an outsider it might actually be rather minor.  Holger Löwenadler’s villainous father is rather unforgivable, and I credit the actor with his sneering, presumptive performance, but he might have done a bit too good of a job if Bergman wanted some redemption for the character.  Anna Lindahl as a result of Holger’s performance comes off as not only sad but dismissive of her son in exchange for her abusive husband.  Gertrud Fridh’s Sally is the biggest question of the movie…I can’t say that she’s particularly likeable even though she too is damaged by society.

ship to india birger malmsten gertrude fridh

Remember that time Dad brought home his girlfriend…and I took her? We sure laughed about that at Christmas

The movie isn’t as visual as some of Bergman’s later films.  The sets are pretty minimal, and the big set piece of the salvage ship feels like it could have been explored more before its dramatic sinking.  Often Bergman gives you great settings even if it isn’t a “character” in the film, but A Ship to India doesn’t feel like it makes the best use of the world.

A Ship to India is kind of memorable in that it presents one of the world’s worst dads.  You have a guy whose wife genuinely bows to him and his son is a slave to his whims, but he still brings home a mistress, flaunts it, and tries to kill his son.  The American version of the film (sometimes called Frustration) initially left off the opening present day opening and put the film in chronological order.  While I can see the movie without it, it does provide depth to a movie that is in desperate need of expansion.  Bergman followed A Ship to India with Music in Darkness in 1948.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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