In TÖRST Bergman masterfully juxtaposes parallel destinies adapted from the novella collection “Törst” (1948) by the writer and stage actress Birgit Tengroth, who also plays the role of Viola in the film.
Point of departure is a hotel in Basel in 1946. Rut (Eva Henning) and Bertil (Birger Malsten) are preparing to return to Stockholm by train. Rut is restless and fidgety and never stops pestering her husband. She is troubled because she had to give up ballet due to a bad knee and can no longer have children after having had an abortion. Her frustration increases in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the train compartment as they ride through the ruins of post-war Germany. A further bone of contention is an affair that Bertil had with the widow Viola. Viola, for her part, can’t get over the death of her husband. She seeks help from the psychiatrist Dr. Rosengren (Hasse Ekman), but he humiliates her and tries to seduce her. She flees and runs into a former schoolmate, who turns out to be lesbian.
In TÖRST Bergman plays with the psychological make-up of the various characters, shifting between despair and the will to overcome of past injuries, and poses the question of whether it is preferable to live in the hell of a relationship or remain alone and independent.