Torment (1944 film)

Torment (Swedish: Hets) is a 1944 Swedish film, directed by Alf Sjöberg from a screenplay by Ingmar Bergman. The film, a tale of sex, passion and murder, was originally released as Frenzy in the United Kingdom,[1] although later releases have used the US title. The film won the Grand Prix at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Torment (Hets)
theatrical release poster
Directed byAlf Sjöberg
Produced byVictor Sjöström
Written byIngmar Bergman
StarringStig Järrel
Alf Kjellin
Mai Zetterling
Gösta Cederlund
Olof Winnerstrand
Hugo Björne
Stig Olin
Music byHilding Rosenberg
CinematographyMartin Bodin
Edited byOscar Rosander
Distributed bySvensk Filmindustri
Release date
2 October 1944
Running time
101 minutes


A sadistic Latin teacher, nicknamed "Caligula" by his long-suffering students, rules his classroom at a Stockholm school like his kingdom. He is exceptionally hard on the diligent Jan-Erik, one of his students. One night Jan-Erik is returning home and finds an intoxicated young woman crying on the street. He recognizes her as Bertha, the clerk in a tobacco store near the school, and he walks her home. Bertha has a taste for men and liquor, and Jan-Erik spends most of the night on her bedside. He becomes very involved with her, and his schoolwork suffers. Bertha also has an older man whom she fears, although she will not reveal his name. It transpires that he is Caligula, and he learns of his student's involvement. He makes life harder still for Jan-Erik, and forces Bertha to do his will by threatening to suspend Jan-Erik. But Caligula is too violent with Bertha, and one day, Jan-Erik arrives to find her dead. He finds Caligula hiding in a corner, and calls the police. With no proof, however, Caligula is soon released, and quickly arranges for the expulsion of Jan-Erik, who accuses Caligula of murder, and finally strikes him in front of the principal of the school. He then goes to stay in Bertha's apartment. The principal of the school comes to the apartment, and offers his assistance in helping Jan-Erik back on track. Caligula comes to the apartment after the principal has left, seeking some sort of forgiveness, but Jan-Erik rejects him and instead walks out into the day to a view that overlooks the whole city.



On 16 January 1943, Ingmar Bergman had been appointed by the Svensk Filmindustri (SF) as an "assistant director and screenwriter" on a one-year initial contract. Bergman, who suffered illness and was hospitalized during the winter of 1942–43, wrote the screenplay for Torment, for which SF acquired the rights in July 1943. The Latin teacher Caligula is partly based on the Latin teacher Sjögren (also played by Stig Järrel) in the 1942 film Lågor i dunklet by director Hasse Ekman.[3]

Filming, on which Ingmar Bergman served as an assistant director, took place in two stages. The first stage, for interior scenes, took place from 21 February to 31 March 1944 at the Filmstaden studios north of Stockholm and the Södra Latin High School in downtown Stockholm. The second stage, covering the exterior scenes, comprised only ten days in late May of the same year. In his second autobiography, Images: My Life in Film, Bergman describes the filming of the exteriors as his actual film directorial debut:

When the film was virtually done, I made my debut as a movie director. Originally, Torment ends after all the students have passed their final exam, except for one, played by Alf Kjellin, who walks out through a backdoor into the rain. Caligula stands in the window, waving good-bye. Everybody felt that this ending was too dark. I had to add an additional scene in the dead girl's apartment where the principal of the school has a heart-to-heart talk with Kjellin while Caligula, the scared loser, is screaming on the staircase below. The new final scene shows Kjellin in the light of dawn, walking towards the awakening city. I was told to shoot these last exteriors, since Sjöberg was otherwise engaged. They were my first professionally filmed images. I was more excited that I can describe. The small film crew threatened to walk off the set and go home. I screamed and swore so loudly that people woke up and looked out of their windows. It was four o’clock in the morning.[4]


Torment provoked intensive debate in the press about the conditions in the Swedish high schools. On a personal level, the pro-German newspaper Aftonbladet published a letter by Henning Håkanson, principal of the private Palmgren High School where Ingmar Bergman had been a student. Håkanson was reacting to an interview with Bergman published in Aftonbladet on the day the film was released:

Mr. Bergman's statement, that his entire time at school was hell, surprises me. I clearly recall that he, his brother and his father were all very satisfied with the school. After his final examinations, Ingmar Bergman came back to school to attend our Christmas party, bright and cheery as far as one could tell, and not seeming to harbor any grudge, either against the school or its teachers. In all probability, the fact of the matter lies elsewhere. Our friend Ingmar was a problem child, lazy yet rather gifted, and the fact that such a person does not easily adapt to the daily routines of study is quite natural. A school cannot be adapted to suit bohemian dreamers, but to suit normally constituted, hard working people.[5]

A few days later Bergman replied:

Let us start with the '12-year hell' (coarsely expressed, by the way. Not a word used by me, but by the person who interviewed me. I recall using a milder term, which is somewhat different). Indeed…I was a very lazy boy, and very scared because of my laziness, because I was involved with theatre instead of school and because I hated having to be punctual, having to get up in the morning, do homework, sit still, having to carry maps, having break times, doing tests, taking oral examinations, or to put it plainly: I hated school as a principle, as a system and as an institution. And as such I have definitely not wanted to criticize my own school, but all schools. As far as I understand it, and as I clearly pointed out in that unfortunate interview, my school was neither better nor worse than other institutions with the same purpose. My revered headmaster also writes (somewhat harshly): 'A school cannot be adapted to suit bohemian dreamers, but to suit normally constituted, hard working people'. Where should the poor bohemians go? Should pupils be divided up: You're a bohemian, you're a hard-working person, you're a bohemian, etc. Would the bohemians be excused? There are teachers one never forgets. Men one liked and men one hated. My revered headmaster belonged and still belongs (in my case) to the former category. I also have the feeling that my dear headmaster has not yet seen the film. Perhaps we should go and watch it together![6]



  1. Factbox: Films of Ingmar Bergman Reuters (July 30, 2007)
  2. International du Film de Cannes : Service Administration - Award Archives. "Hets - Grand Prix, 1946 au Festival International du Film (Cannes) Fiche Film - La Cinémathèque française". Document is found under Palmarès (prize list)
  3. Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia (5th ed.) New York: HarperCollins, 1998. ISBN 978-0-06-074214-0
  4. Bergman, Ingmar; Ruuth, Marianne (trans.) Images: my life in film London: Bloomsbury, 1994. ISBN 0-7475-1670-7
  5. Håkansson, Henning in Aftonbladet (3 October 1944)(translated from Swedish)
  6. Bergman, Ingmar. in the Aftonbladet (9 October 1944) (translated from Swedish)


  • Bergman, Ingmar, Bilder, Stockholm : Norstedt, 1990. ISBN 91-1-893192-8
  • Bergman, Ingmar The Bergman pages at the Swedish Film Institute,
  • Lundin, Gunnar and Olsson, Jan, Regissörens roller : samtal med Alf Sjöberg, Lund : Cavefors, 1976. ISBN 91-504-0445-8
  • Lundin, Gunnar. Filmregi Alf Sjöberg, Lund : Institutionen för dramaforskning, Lund Úniversity, 1979. ISBN 91-7222-231-X
  • Faktablad : Hets (pdf) Svensk filmdatabas.

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