Albert is the corpulent and lecherous owner of a travelling circus. His mistress is Anna, a voluptuous equestrienne in the troupe. At one of the small towns where the circus stops, Albert visits his wife to plead for the revival of their marriage, but is rejected, while Anna is callously seduced by Frans, a young actor in the town. During the gala performance given by the circus that evening, Frans taunts Albert about his liaison with Anna and the result is a bloody fight in which Albert is utterly defeated. He tries to shoot himself but the revolver misfires and he has to be satisfied with shooting the circus bear instead. This is the most literally picaresque of Bergman’s films. It is also his first historical setting (the time is the turn of the last century). Albert is a brilliantly realised figure, resembling the Emil Jannings character of The Blue Angel, and the theme of the film, similarly, is illusion. As Albert says: ‘to be a cuckold is nothing; it is to know it that is terrible.’
Black and white.