Because I’m participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code and the 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I wanted to review one of Ingrid’s films from outside the Breen Code era. On her IMDB filmography, the 1976 movie, A Matter of Time caught my eye. After reading the synopsis, I chose this film as my submission for the blogathon! I was able to watch the movie through a series of videos from the Youtube channel, BroadwaytoRio. The film was broken down into ten parts, each video about ten minutes long. Prior to these blogathons, the only movies of Ingrid Bergman’s I have seen are Casablanca and Gaslight. Both of these films were not only released in the ‘40s, they were also released in the Breen Code era. As this is the first time I’m reviewing a post-1954 movie of Ingrid’s, it’ll be interesting to see how A Matter of Time differs from her two previously mentioned films!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Since I chose to review this movie for the Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I’m going to talk about her performance first. Ingrid’s role in A Matter of Time is different from her other roles I’ve seen so far. In this film, she carried herself with a sense of power and authority, demanding the audience to focus their attention on her. At the same time, she held mystery and sorrow close to her character’s heart. In the scene where Ingrid’s character, the Contessa, is talking to her ex-husband, she brings so much emotion during the conversation, that the scene itself feels earth-shaking. Even toward the end of her acting career, Ingrid still had what it took, acting wise, to carry a film! Last October, I reviewed the 1991 film, Stepping Out. While watching A Matter of Time, I immediately noticed how Liza’s character was different from the one she portrayed in the aforementioned ‘90s film. Nina, the protagonist of this story, grew as a person over time. She transformed from a timid young woman to someone who knew what she wanted in life. One scene shows Nina having a disagreement about the Contessa with a screenwriter. During this scene, she breaks out of her timid shell to defend her friend. It causes a fire to break forth from Nina, something the audience hadn’t seen up until that point. Similar to Ingrid’s performance, Liza’s portrayal of Nina in that scene was so powerful, it made this character a force to be reckoned with. The emotionality was very strong in Liza’s performance!
The scenery: Even though most of this movie takes place indoors, it did feature some nice scenery! A scene where Nina travels to the city showcases some of the sights of Rome and Venice, where A Matter of Time was filmed. Through her bus window, monuments and mammoth sized buildings are set against a clear, blue sky. Earth tone limestone covered some of the facilities, contrasting the black concrete roads leading to them. More sights from Rome and Venice could be seen in a montage where Nina goes sightseeing. Shots of the city’s landscape emphasis the large scope of this particular location. Statues served as everlasting art that patrons could enjoy in any season. Even some foliage was included in this montage, with red-ish trees located near a ledge and around a town center. These shots highlighted some of the most photogenic parts of these cities, potentially encouraging some viewers to plan their next vacation!
The messages and themes: While I wasn’t expecting A Matter of Time to contain relatable messages and themes, I appreciate their inclusion in this story. They were timeless and felt just as relevant now as they did in the mid to late ‘70s. One message revolved around being yourself. Even though this particular message has been shared on numerous occasions, it was nice to hear it coming from the Contessa. It was given as wisdom to Nina, in an effort to help her create her own path in life. An unexpected theme in A Matter of Time was mortality. Throughout the movie, the Contessa refuses to share her life story, saying, “My life belongs to me alone. I tell it only to myself”. She also says, “No one is dead. No one dies unless we wish them to”. These quotes speak volumes about the importance of a life story and the effort of keeping a person’s memory alive. It also reminds viewers how long life can feel, even when time seems so short.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lack of magic: There was a crawling text at the beginning of the film. In this text, it says “What you are about to see may appear like a fairy tale…as we all know some fairy tales come true”. The text also says that Nina experienced a “magic moment”. This gave me the impression that A Matter of Time would be a modern fairy tale, similar to a film like the Hallmark production, Midnight Masquerade. If that was the creative team’s intention for the 1976 movie, they forgot one important ingredient: magic. In a modern fairy tale story, there needs to be a sense of whimsy or magic included in the narrative. The Halloween party in Midnight Masquerade showcases how a feeling of magic can be incorporated into a modern setting. A Matter of Time does not contain that feeling. If anything, it feels more like a drama than a fantasy. The movie makes it seem like Nina was conveniently at the right place and time instead of stumbling across a bit of magic.
The dream sequences: Dream sequences appeared at certain points in the movie. These sequences were elaborate in nature, showing Nina living a life of glamour and luxury. While the dream sequences looked nice, I found them confusing. There was no distinction if they were dreams or future events from Nina’s life. Smooth transitions were not given to these scenes, making it feel like they were plunked into the story. I understand the dream sequences were meant to add some pizzazz to the overall picture. But their randomness prevented them from making a significant impression.
Grainy film quality: I know the quality of film from the 1970s is going to be different by today’s standards. Since that time period, technology and film-making have progressed tremendously. The presentation of A Matter of Time was grainy, making the production look like it hasn’t aged as well as other movies from the ‘70s. Because of the overall film quality, there were times when I had difficulty seeing characters’ facial expressions. I’m not sure if the videos I watched were recorded from a VHS tape or if that was the movie’s original presentation. But it’s not a good sign if I have trouble seeing what’s on screen.
My overall impression:
To me, A Matter of Time is an ok film. It has components of value; which are strong acting performances, nice scenery, and relatable messages and themes. However, the story is one that audiences have heard before and after the film’s 1976 release. Stories are inevitably going to get repeated over the course of time. When this happens, it’s important for a film’s creative team to find something that sets their project apart. With A Matter of Time, nothing new or unique is offered to the table. It feels like the overall production is ignoring their own message of being yourself. Even though this was a theatrically released project, it came across like a made-for-TV movie with a slightly higher budget. This statement is not made to disrespect television films, as there have been some good ones created over the years. What I mean is the presentation of this movie didn’t justify a theater release. Even though A Matter of Time has a PG rating, there are some pieces that would not appear in a Breen Code era film. These pieces are the following:
- Some of the language in this script would be objectionable by Breen Code standards. There were times when the characters either swore or used God’s name in vain.
- Some sexual references were made throughout the story, from Nina referring to a specific body part to a screenwriter wanting to create a violent scene for his upcoming movie.
- A screenwriter named Mario attacks Nina while she is cleaning his room. Though he is acting out a scene from his script, the act itself would never appear in a Breen Code era movie.
- Nina wears three dresses that have a low neckline. Even though one of these dresses is paired with a sweater, the sweater is never buttoned up.
- There are two scenes where it is implied that Nina is not wearing any clothes. One of these scenes is briefly shown during a montage, showing a profile of Nina from her shoulders upward. The second scene shows Nina changing from one outfit to another. Only her back and her shoulders are visible.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you seen any movie from Ingrid Bergman’s filmography? Which actress would you like to see receive their own blogathon? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!