The Touch

The Touch, Ingmar Bergman's only English language effort, is no lost masterpiece, but Bibi Andersson's performance and Bergman's deft handling of complex emotions make it worth seeking out

Film Review by Barry Didcock | 26 Apr 2018
Film title: The Touch
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Bibi Andersson, Elliot Gould, Max von Sydow
Release date: 23 Apr
Certificate: 15

Nobody ever argued for The Touch being Ingmar Bergman's best film. Not on its release in 1971 – critical response was tepid – and certainly not since. Bergman himself hardly mentions it in his autobiographies, which is odd as it's the only English language film he made. And in an era when even 1980s faves like Ghostbusters and The Breakfast Club are being viewed through the prism of #MeToo and found wanting, there are different, newer reasons to find fault. But with the centenary of the Swede's birth falling in July and a programme of spruced up re-releases currently touring, The Touch is worth exhuming – and not just to please those Bergman completists who view it as some sort of 'lost' masterpiece.

The main reason to watch is Bergman regular Bibi Andersson. She plays Karin, a mother-of-two happily married to surgeon Andreas (von Sydow). The film follows her as she starts an affair with American archaeologist David (Gould) when he issues an impromptu declaration of love after Andreas introduces the pair. The relationship, which plays out over the course of two years, often appears abusive. David is controlling, he hits Karin hard enough for Andreas to see the mark, and there's a suggestion of rape in an early sexual encounter. But somehow it stays believable, gripping and emotionally insightful thanks to Andersson's mesmerising screen presence, and to Bergman's feel for the complexities of his material; when it came to charting infidelities, passions and the strange mechanics of the inner life, he always was the grown-up in the room.


There's a contemporary on-set interview with Bergman, a newer one with Bergman confidante Liv Ullman, and an entertaining series of recollections from Glasgow-born actress Sheila Reid about playing David's sister. Intriguingly, she hints at the possibility of something other than a sibling relationship. [Barry Didcock]

Released by BFI