Year of Release: 1949
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Doris Svedlund, Birger Malmsten, Eva Henning
Running Time: 76 minutes
A film director (Hasse Ekman) is visited on set by his old Math teacher (Anders Henrikson) who wants him to make a film about the world under the control of the Devil. The director tells the story to his journalist friend, Tomas (Malmsten), whose marriage to Sofi (Henning) is strained to begin with, and becomes even more so due to his interest in troubled teenage sex worker Birgitta (Svedlund), who is trapped by her violent, pimp boyfriend (Stig Olin) and her ruthless sister Linnea (Irma Christenson).
This was Bergman's sixth film as director, and it still feels as if he was trying to find his voice. His early films are not generally considered among his best, but it seems like here he was coming into his own. Prison is an underrated film, although far from Bergman's best, it is a fascinating, experimental work. There are ideas and story elements that seem underdeveloped, for example the whole thing with the teacher and the director barely connects with the body of the story. Shot on a micro budget using sets left over from another film, this still has impressive visuals, and Bergman shows his eye for the interplay of light and shadow. There is a striking, surreal dream sequence, which almost makes a virtue of it's stark, empty set dressed with a few trees and billowing smoke. The cast is impressive, in particular Doris Svedlund's haunting performance. Here we see Bergman his theme of the difficulty of faith and the silence of God, which would pretty much define his career. It's not exactly a happy, fun film but it's an impressive one and worth seeing, especially for Bergman fans.