Ingmar Bergman is hailed as one of the best directors of the film age. He was able to make great subtle studies of human nature in a way that was beautiful and shocking. Movies like Wild Strawberries, Seventh Seal, Persona, and Cries and Whispers are required viewing for anyone wanting to truly understand the language of film. But every great director has to start somewhere. Crisis was the first film he ever directed. While there are shades of Bergman in this movie, I would never connected the two if the titles had been cut out.
Ingeborg is an older woman who teaches piano to make a living in a small village town. What little money she earns, she gives to her adopted daughter, Nelly, who is bursting with young age and sexuality. Nelly wants nothing more than to dance her heart out at the local dance that night. Ulif wants to take her to the dance, but Nelly thinks that he is too old for her and sees him as an older brother because he boards at Ingeborg’s. This simple picture of domesticity is interrupted by the arrival of Nelly’s biological mother, Jenny. Jenny comes from the big city and she is a beauty shop owner. She wants to take Nelly away and teach her about the ins and outs of the beauty industry. Ingeborg sees trouble lying ahead, but does nothing to stop her. Jenny trails Jack behind her, a derelict charmer who wants nothing more than to ruin reputations of other people. Throw these two sleazy people into the mix and you will surely have a… crisis.
This is a by the numbers picture. While it has some gripping moments and treats Nelly’s sexual curiosity as natural, this is far from the wonderful pictures Bergman will direct later on in his career. Each scene is bursting with melodrama and over acting. Each plot twist is seen from a mile away and yet seems incongruous to the natural flow of the story. Like Nelly in a certain scene, the movie just sort of lies there scolding you for your curiosity in seeing early films of great directors.