While there's no confessional ritual in the Lutheran Church, there is the "confessional" tradition of the Ingmar Bergman film--a tradition with which this Liv Ullmann-directed drama keeps faith. Written by Bergman as a sequel to his earlier Best Intentions, Private Confessions continues the story of his parents: the high-born Anna (Pernilla August) and the intensely rigid preacher (Samuel Froler) with whom she falls out of love after 12 years of marriage. Seeking salvation, Anna instigates a romance with a theology student and family friend (Thomas Hanzon), and then confesses the whole situation to the older pastor (Max von Sydow) who once confirmed her. Self-effacingly filmed by Ullmann, this is an intimately staged drama about spiritual doubts and the fine line between determination and egotism. It's also a two-hour condensation of a 200-minute television miniseries, and it shows: The plot proceeds through a series of five dialogue scenes shot in closeup, with two characters each. Still, it's well-written by the wordy Bergman's standards, and, as Anna, August proves herself to be a sensitive actress who's full of more subtle surprises than we can expect her to reveal as Darth Vader's mom in The Phantom Menace. (Anderson) Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Rivers of Babylon
Set in an unnamed, post-Socialist city in the first years of 1990s "liberation," this dark comedy from Slovakia touches on a few of the ironies covered earlier in Kieslowski's great White: Communism is gone, trust is open for grabs, and the one man who has any real power is the guy who controls the heat. He is Racz (Andrej Hryc), a hotel employee who becomes a metaphor for brutish opportunism as he trades his coveralls for a slick suit and a new life as a gangster entrepreneur. With his shaven head, guttural voice, and questionable prior career, he's a little like a certain governor we know. But the movie isn't into subtlety or even satire of the finer sort, as Racz's story is told by a supporting character--a greasy black marketeer/pimp (Vlado Hajdu) who appears to have higher standards but doesn't quite survive by them. The film is a noisy, raunchy, and none-too-convincing examination of anger over a free-market economy gone nuts; most revealing about its style is the near-fetishization of such material goods as Scotch whiskey, German cars, and Swiss watches. Even though this high-gloss junk expresses the main character's utter selfishness, it seems to be something the filmmakers would like to wallow in as well. (Anderson) Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.