Sawdust and Tinsel

Sawdust and Tinsel
Film poster
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman (uncredited)
Produced by Rune Waldekranz
Starring Åke Grönberg
Harriet Andersson
Hasse Ekman
Cinematography Hilding Bladh
Sven Nykvist
Edited by Carl-Olov Skeppstedt
Release date
  • 14 September 1953 (1953-09-14)
Running time
93 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish

Sawdust and Tinsel (Swedish: Gycklarnas afton, lit.'The Evening of the Jesters') is a 1953 Swedish drama film directed by Ingmar Bergman.


In Sawdust and Tinsel, Bergman depicts the battle between sexes as a grotesque carnival of humiliation. Set in the turn of the twentieth-century Sweden, the story begins in the outdoor area of the circus, where the clown Frost (Anders Ek) is informed that a beautiful lady is bathing nude in the sea near the coast where the circus is set. He later finds out that the lady is his wife and he tries to cover her up by blocking her body with his. We are then introduced to the circus owner and ringmaster Albert Johansson (Åke Grönberg) and his young mistress, Anne (Harriet Andersson) who is the horseback rider of the circus.

As circus members advertised by marching in the street, they get intervened by the police. When asked for a permit, they play around and humiliate the police which consequently led to the confiscation of several of their horses. After the incident, they began talking about their financial situation and the fate of the circus in the main circus tent. Albert and Anne, at this time, are having a problem of their own as it appears that Albert has gotten tired of the circus and Anne, as he wants to go back to his wife and child whom he had left for three years.

Under desperate measures, Albert and Anne try to preserve the circus by meeting Mr. Sjuberg (Gunnar Björnstrand ), the theatre director who might as well be their saviour. Mr. Sjuberg insults Albert and his wife's appearances which he believed looked ridiculous and overdressed, however he lets them borrow some clothes. When asked for the payment, Mr. Sjuberg says that it would be paid by seeing one of their performances. In the theatre, Anne meets Frans (Hasse Ekman) who lusts for her, and constantly flirts with her but Anne disinterestedly rejects him. When Anne and Albert reach back to their trailer, she begs him not to leave her and to marry her instead. Albert is still determined to go back to his wife, Agda (Annika Tretow). When he goes to Agda's house and has a conversation in retrospective, he reveals that he is in a financial situation and would like to sell out the circus and help her out with her shop, however when he begs to stay the night she declines and asks him to leave. Meanwhile, the desperate Anne goes to the theatre to meet Frans, and he tells her about an amulet that was given to him by a grateful woman. He tells Anne that if the amulet is sold, she could live off of it and extorts her for sexual intercourse. After they had sex, he gives her the amulet. She walks onto the streets, and shockingly Albert has been spying on her.

The enraged Albert confronts Anne in the trailer. At first, she lies but after he endeavours in trying to get the truth out of her, she confesses. The conversation is interrupted when Frost goes into the trailer drunk and Albert joins him, Albert schemes to shoot the bear. He goes out of the trailer, and he madly shouts. They prepare for a circus performance playing shortly. After a clown act, Anne begins her horseback riding that is constantly interrupted by Frans's catcalling, he is sitting in the front and part of the audience. One of the audience members throws a rock at the horse, this disruption of the performance gives a chance for Albert to whip Frans's forehead. Frans goes into the ring and slaps Albert's face. Mr. Sjuberg who was invited earlier, starts a fight between the two, an honourable one without whips or tools. Albert and Frans brawl. Albert falls down and attempts to grab onto Frans's legs but fails, and Albert ultimately loses. Frost and other circus member stop the fight and Anne cries and hits Frans.

That night, Albert contemplates suicide by putting a gun onto his head. Everyone is concerned as he had locked himself up and would not open up the door. Frost and his wife, Alma tries to comfort Albert. He later goes to the cage and shoots the bear. He goes into a horse shed and weeps. When a circus member comes, he screams at him and orders him to prepare to move the circus. In the end, they travel out of the setting and Albert and Anne both stare at each other.



It has a 100% approval rating from 9 reviews listed at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8/10.[1] The film ranked 6th on Cahiers du Cinéma's Top 10 Films of the Year List in 1957.[2] In 2012 it was voted one of the 25 best Swedish films of all time.[3] The film was shown as part of an Ingmar Bergman Retrospective at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in 2011.[4]


  1. ^ "Gycklarnas afton (Sawdust and Tinsel)(Sunset of a Clown)(The Naked Night) (1953)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  2. ^ Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  3. ^ "De 25 bästa svenska filmerna genom tiderna". Flm (in Swedish). 30 August 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Berlinale 2011: Ingmar Bergman Retrospective". berlinale. Retrieved 10 April 2012.

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