A Ship to India stumbles out of the gate. The opening shot of a freighter sailing into port under lightning-streaked skies looks so artificial, I wondered if it was intentional. Turns out, it was the first sign this film may have gotten away from director Ingmar Bergman.
After an awkward framing device, we get to the meat of the story. Set on a salvage boat working just off the coast, Malmsten plays Johannes, the hunchback son of the tyrannical Captain Blom, played by Löwenadler. Blom plans to leave his family and run off with his mistress Sally, who he’s brought to live on the ship much to the dismay of his long-suffering wife, Alice. Soon a triangle forms between the naïve Johannes, the hard-hearted Sally, and Blom.
I loved Löwenadler’s performance, which reminded me of an older John Huston. His arc resonated the strongest, but the script focuses on Johannes. This forces the ill-conceived wrap-around story. I can appreciate how Bergman sought to depict the far-reaching effects of a malevolent father, but he fumbles the execution. Gone is the sense of whimsy present in his prior films. In striving for greater realism, he generates more artifice through special effects and inner-monologues. Chalk this up as a disappointing miss.