Brink of Life (1958)

brink of life poster 1958 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 10/10
Visual: 8/10

Great cast, subtle story


Movie Info

Movie Name: Brink of Life

Studio: Nordisk Tonefilm

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  March 31, 1958 (Sweden)/May 13, 1958 (Cannes)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

brink of life ingrid thulin miscarriage

Well a couple minutes in and you can see this is going to a fun ride full of laughs

In maternity ward, three women find themselves in different situations.  Cecilia Ellius (Ingrid Thulin) is struggling with loss and the fear that the marriage to her husband Anders (Erland Josephson) who doesn’t support the pregnancy is a mistake.  Stina Andersson (Eva Dahlbeck) and her husband Harry (Max Von Sydow) are expecting a child but Stina discovers the baby is taking longer to be born than she had hoped or expected.  Young and unmarried Hjördis Petterson (Bibi Andersson) wishes she wasn’t pregnant and questions what her future holds if the baby is born.

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, Brink of Life (Nära livet) is a black-and-white Swedish drama.  Following Bergman’s Wild Strawberries from 1957, the film sometimes goes by the title So Close to Life and received a Best Director award with Best Actress awards for Bibi Andersson, Eva Dahlbeck, Ingrid Thulin, and Barbro Hiort af Ornäs at the Cannes Film Festival.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film as part of their Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema boxset.

brink of life eva dahlbeck bibi andersson barbro hiort af ornas

Enjoy your beer and castor oil

The massive Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema boxset is filled with interesting and classic films.  Sometimes, going through and picking an unseen film for time is a good thing.  Brink of Life is a strong drama with a great cast that is short and sweet.

The film is essentially a character study (like many of Bergman’s movies) of the three women in different positions in their life.  The tie is the unknown factor of what motherhood can do to a person.  Cecilia’s character isn’t sure she wants to be a mother or if she’d be a good mother, but finds herself mourning the loss of her child when the opportunity is taken from her.  Stina wants nothing more than to be a mother and demonstrates her desire in her treatment of her roommates and her concern for their wellbeing.  Hjördis doesn’t want to be a mother because of the fears and her youth and struggles with the idea that rejecting motherhood could hurt a child who didn’t ask to be born.

The cast is great.  While all three expectant mothers do a great job, Eva Dahlbeck shines the brightest.  Her joy of the upcoming motherhood is the often described “radiant” mother that practically gives off light.  As a jaded viewer, you know that it could be bad for her in the end (especially after her own fearful vision), but the script has you maintaining hope that you’ll be wrong since the script is very naturalistic.  The fourth “mother” is Barbro Hiort af Ornäs who plays the nurse Brita who you have to imagine has seen so much and takes on these experiences every day.

brink of life bibi andersson smoking pregnant

Times change. Not only is she pregnant and smoking, but she’s in a hospital

The movie is very basic in its visuals.  Set entirely in the maternity wing of the hospital, the movie obviously deals with blank walls and cold, undecorated rooms…which does raise the question of why “sterility” in hospitals means that they have to be so lifeless.  In Bergman’s film, the characters bring the life into the empty space and naturally fill it.

Brink of Life isn’t the most memorable film you will ever watch, but it is a good film.  It is always a nice reminder that movies can do drama and due it subtly.  The film is blunt but tactful in its exploration and it feels like something that was probably ahead of its time.  Now, you might expect some more graphic scenes and discussions, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better.  Bergman followed Brink of Life with The Magician also released in 1958.

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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