Ingmar Bergman’s first stamp on the film world was his brooding screenplay for Torment (1944) about a high school senior trying (and ultimately failing) to finish his finals and graduate despite a sadistic Latin teacher and a relationship with a troubled shopgirl. Turns out the hapless student’s girlfriend is being stalked and abused by the same devilish teacher. A remarkably fine debut which presages much of Bergman to come. Boarding school drama and a torrid love triangle story fuse to make a unique film. Incidentally, a big winner at the 1946 Cannes film festival.
This is the first film in the first volume of Criterion Pictures’ Eclipse Series, which is a sequence of boxed sets bringing out important films gouped by specific directors, studios, or topics, but in less lavishly produced and restored DVD editions than the main Criterion series, shorn of all the extras, in order to keep prices affordable. Over more than 40 volumes, the Eclipse series is a fascinating way to find obscure but important films that have been largely overlooked or forgotten. I was ready for Torment to be a slog to be gotten through, appealing only to Ingmar Bergman completists. I was totally surprised, because I was completely wrong. This is a very fine film, emotionally engaging, and I daresay I personally enjoyed the viewing more than, say, such an austere later (and more famous) Bergman work as Wild Strawberries.