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A Ship Bound for India

aka The Land of Desire (Skepp till Indialand)
Sweden 1947. Dir: Ingmar Bergman. 98 min. DCP

Bergman’s third feature is a sordid melodrama that makes claustrophobic use of space and centres on a strange quartet of characters: a cruel salvage-ship captain losing his sight, his neglected wife, their hunchbacked son, and the alluring cabaret performer who precipitates a vicious father-son rivalry. The film’s flashback form and moody atmosphere take inspiration from Marcel Carné’s 1939 poetic-realist masterpiece and influential proto-noir Le jour se lève, a work much admired by Bergman. A Ship Bound for India was sent to Cannes in 1947, where it received favourable attention from French critics; André Bazin praised the work for its “Northern mystery and intensity” and “world of blinding cinematic purity.” It was also the first Bergman-directed film exhibited in America, receiving an exploitation-style release under the title Frustration, complete with lurid poster.