Well Sara was asking what we thought of it, so here's it's own thread.
I honestly never thought I'd see the day when I could say that I saw a "new" Ingmar Bergman film in a theater. Considering Fanny and Alexander saw it's US premiere the year I was born, he was a little before my time. Watching the film on the big screen I saw something that art house audiences of the 60's and 70's must have seen whenever Bergman had a new release. There was a general excitement about the film. Don't get me wrong, the film isn't "exciting", in fact it's deliberately slow, methodical, and somber, but the craft is what's exciting. Seeing something new from arguably the greatest director living or dead.
For those unfamiliar with the story, I would highly suggest getting Scenes From a Marriage. This film is more of a companion piece to that rather than an outright sequel. Bergman doesn't really attempt to explain away the last thirty years in these characters lives, instead he let's us see them in the present. We get a bit of an introduction in Marrianne's (Liv Ullmann) prologue, but it is merely Bergman's way of getting the trivial matters like setting taken care of.
The film has a novel like form, and it is made more abundantly clear with the use of chapters, I believe there are 11 in all, plus the prologue and epilogue. The film title is the 9th chapter, and for those who don't know what a Saraband is, it's a piece of music. The cast is kept extremely small (as it was in Scenes), with only Ullmann, Erland Josephson (reprising his role of Johan), and Johan's son from another marriage Henrik (Borje Ahlstedt) and his daughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius). There is one other character, but she appears for only one scene, and discussing that particular scene may ruin a genuinely powerful moment in the film.
The title alludes not only to that piece of music, a Bach piece for cello which plays throughout the picture, but as a description of the film itself. It bears the qualities of that piece of music, simple but powerful. Although instead of focusing on the drama of Marrianne and Johan again, the drama is now on Henrik and Karin. Dufvenius gives a remarkably good performance, but it's hard to think of anyone who isn't amazing with a director like Bergman around. Henrik has that pathetic quality to him which fits for the story. He is a "needy" person, always devoted, but constantly in need of someone else. It is this very clingy nature that repulses his father, and the two openly admit their hatred for one another.
If there could be a more appropriate title, it would perhaps be Scenes from a Family, because the focus isn't on the marriage, but on the people who are at least geographically closest to Johan. Marrianne has no direct relation to Karin or Henrik, but serves as a shoulder to cry on for Karin who's torn between what's best for her, and what's best for her father. Marrianne plays much the role of observer throughout, offering insight and guidance, but rarely is her opinion taken to consideration. It is only in the final scene with Johann do we see the dependency that these two had for each other in the original film.
Despite being the observer, Marriane is the main thrust and catalyst of the story. She is the one who makes the contact with Johan, and she is the one that is telling the story, although not through direct narration. Without her there, this film would have no center, she represents us in the story, full of opinions, but without much help to anyone. Marriane is also the strongest character in the film. She doesn't "need" anyone or anything, she sees Johan on an impulse and I believe she just wants to see him. She is also the only character in the film who has an actual job (still a lawyer), although Karin is working on her own future career by the film's end. She has her own life, and she's not left in the country with nothing but beautiful scenery and time to contemplate her life.
I was generally impressed with the film, there were heavy expecations, and I must say the film came through as much as I could have hoped for. I doubt that any cinephile would miss this, but for those in doubt, SEE THIS MOVIE. Bergman makes a strong case for why he may be the greatest director of all time.