The Serpent's Egg

THE SERPENT'S EGG
(DAS SCHLANGENEI) 1978

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



I enjoyed seeing David Carradine in a serious artfilm role, as I've always had a sort of guilty pleasure for his screen presence, even though I can sure see why he never got to be directed by an international giant like Bergman ever again. Not that some howlingly campy dialogue provided Carradine with more than half a chance at being impressive. Did Bergman not know English well enough to fully hear the campiness of some of that dialogue?

Set in 1923 Berlin, Carradine plays a Jewish trapeze artist from America, & Liv Ullmann an inconveniently pregnant harlot & cabaret performer seeking the assistance of a pre-nazi Dr. Mengela-like mad scientist (Heinz Bennent) who turns out to be conducting heinous experiments on people. This vision of Berlin is one of depravity & horror & overlooks the greater reality that Berlin was the only part of Germany the Nazis had to take over by force rather than at the ballot box.

The film associates Decadence with nascent nazism, but factually those decadent & cosmopolitan Berliners were impossible to win over to the Nazis' antisemitic agenda. Berlin provided a haven for queers & Jews & intellectuals & comedians & artists & authors & brothel madames who sustained a libertine & cosmpolitan open-mindedness opposed to ideas of hate that for the rest of Germany & Austria were regarded as supportable. And most of those Decadent Berliners died for their dreams of tolerance & beauty & excess.

I weary of seeing Berliners' artistry & decadence misrepresented as a symptom of Teutonic evil rather than as the only Germans who could not be convinced to willingly submit to agendas that would assault first & formost their own kind. And it's sad to see an artist of Bergman's calibre repeating blindly Teutoniphobic misunderstandings of what it meant to be a Berliner in those times. I have a Teutoniphobic streak myself, but I make a very great exception for true Berliners.

But, well, Bergman wasn't experiencing the best of times himself in the 1970s, & perhaps the nature of this film wasn't entirely his to decide upon.

I was really in the mood for an arthouse film, but this one didn't entirely fill the bill. The horror ingredients simply were not upraised by the film's empty pretentions. Still, I'd been warned this was no great work like Seventh Seal, so I was prepared for Bergman Minor, & was happy to have finally had the opportunity to see The Serpent's Egg.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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