The Passion of Anna

The Passion of Anna (Swedish: En passion – "A passion") is a 1969 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, who was awarded Best Director at the 1970 National Society of Film Critics Awards for the film.[1]

The Passion of Anna
The Passion of Anna poster.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byIngmar Bergman
Written byIngmar Bergman
Produced byLars-Owe Carlberg
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited bySiv Lundgren
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
10 November 1969
Running time
101 minutes


The audience is introduced to Andreas Winkelman, a man living alone and emotionally desolate after the recent demise of his marriage. He meets Anna, who is grieving the recent deaths of her husband and son. She uses a cane as a result of the car crash that killed them. While Anna uses Andreas' phone, he listens to her conversation, after which she departs visibly distraught. Anna has left her handbag behind and Andreas searches it, finding and reading a letter from her husband that will later prove she is deceptive.

The narrative of the film is periodically interrupted by brief footage of the actors discussing their characters.

Andreas is friends with a married couple, Eva and Elis (mutual friends of Anna) who are also in the midst of psychological turmoil. Elis is an amateur photographer who organizes his work based on emotion. Eva feels Elis has grown tired of her and has problems sleeping. One night while Elis is away, Eva visits Andreas, as she is bored and lonely. They listen to music and drink wine, which makes them drowsy, and finally Eva sleeps for several hours. When she wakes up, they have sex. Afterward, she explains that during her only pregnancy years ago, she went to the hospital to treat her insomnia. The medicine they gave her helped her condition but killed the child. She conveys that it allowed her and Elis to share a moment of emotional affinity.

Andreas visits Elis whom he promised could photograph him. Elis leaves the room for a moment and Eva enters. In their conversation, Eva reveals that Anna has moved in with Andreas, and though she is not displeased (as she likes both of them), she warns him to be wary of Anna. Elis enters the room; when Eva asks him why he looks angry, he says he only gets angry at human trifles (alluding to the affair).

Their relationship is not passionate, but Andreas and Anna start off relatively content. Anna appears zealous in her faith and steadfast in her search for truth, but gradually her delusions surface—reinforced by what Andreas read in the letter. For his part, Andreas is unable to overcome his feelings of deep humiliation about himself and remains disconnected, further dooming the relationship with Anna, as he prefers solitude and freedom to companionship.

Throughout the film, an unknown person among the island community commits acts of animal cruelty, hanging a dog and violently killing cattle. A friend of Andreas is wrongly accused of these crimes, leading the community to threaten and beat him, catalyzing his suicide. Within a few days of the friend's death, Anna and Andreas have a physical fight during which they reveal their strong distaste for each other. Afterwards, Anna lies in bed while Andreas follows two firetrucks that passed his home. They were headed to a large barn fire. When Andreas arrives, he is told that the unknown man who is the true culprit of the animal cruelty covered a barn full of animals in gasoline and lit it on fire, locking the animals in. It is obvious to the community that Andreas's friend was unjustly abused and committed suicide because of flimsy human suspicion; therefore, chances for healing are lost.

Anna shows up at the fire in her car. Andreas gets in. As they drive down the road beside the sea, Andreas explains that he desires his solitude again and that their parting will be best. He also reveals that he read the letters her husband wrote. As Andreas talks, Anna appears (to him) to speed up the car. He asks if she is going to kill him like she killed her husband and manages to stop the car safely. While Anna remains silent throughout the drive, Andreas tells her she is out of her mind and asks her to "say something" repeatedly. Eventually he asks her why she picks him up at the fire, and Anna replies "I came to ask for forgiveness." Anna drives away while Andreas paces back and forth on the side of the road.



The film has its origins in Bergman's 1968 film Shame, also starring Ullmann and Von Sydow. After shooting of Shame completed, Fårö's environmental regulations required the house built for the film be burned, but Bergman had developed an attachment to its appearance and saved it by claiming there were plans to use it in another film.[2] He began writing The Passion of Anna, and with Von Sydow and Ullmann still contracted to work with him, envisioned The Passion of Anna as "virtually a sequel."[2]


Author Jerry Vermilye wrote that in exploring "the thread of violence intruding on ordinary lives," Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame and The Passion of Anna represent a trilogy.[3] Author Amir Cohen-Shalev concurred the films form a trilogy.[4] Cohen-Shalev wrote that, like Persona and Shame, The Passion of Anna follows an "artist as fugitive" theme touching on issues of guilt and self-hatred.[4]


On Rotten Tomatoes, The Passion of Anna garnered 100% approval among 15 critics.[5] Vincent Canby argued that "it does seem designed more for the indefatigable Bergman cryptologists (of which I am not one) than for interested, but uncommitted filmgoers", but praised its lead actors' performances and wrote that "Bergman gives each of them extraordinary moments of cinematic truth, monologues of sustained richness and drama".[6] The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002.[7]

The film is not considered one of Bergman's greatest works, but retrospective evaluations are still positive. Sam Jordison wrote for Film4, "While it lacks the lightness of touch and smooth flow that distinguishes Bergman at his finest, this is still a powerful, profound work of art."[8]


  1. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Frank Gado, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, Duke University Press, 1986, p. 377.
  3. ^ Jerry Vermilye, Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002, p. 133.
  4. ^ a b Amir Cohen-Shalev, Both Worlds at Once: Art in Old Age, University Press of America, 2002, p. 138.
  5. ^ "The Passion of Anna (En Passion) (1970)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (29 May 1970). "Movie Review - THE PASSION OF ANNA". p. 12.
  7. ^ "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 2002. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  8. ^ Jordison, Sam. "En Passion". Channel Four Television Corporation. Retrieved 15 January 2017.

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