Ingmar Bergman's FACE TO FACE is a psychodrama featuring family strife, childhood trauma, and psychotherapy--all plot elements that recur consistently throughout the Swedish filmmaker's latter works. Liv Ullmann plays Dr. Jenny Isaksson, a successful psychiatrist who visits her grandparents (Aino Taube-Henrikson and Gunnar Björnstrand) while her husband, Erik, and their daughter are away on vacation. Hoping for a brief respite and a chance to recuperate, she instead finds herself transported back to her childhood, and unhappy memories, nightmares, and hallucinations threaten to overwhelm her. She breaks down after an adulterous encounter with another man (Erland Josephson) and realizes she is losing her mind. After a botched suicide attempt, Isaksson is hospitalized and decides to reconsider her situation.
Female characters are central to most of the films of Bergman's mature phase, and this picture represents yet another study of a woman's harrowing personal struggle, rendered onscreen via Bergman's characteristic close-ups and cinematographer Sven Nykvist's highly expressive photography. Ullmann's strong performance in what has been called one of the lesser Bergman films of the 1970s is riveting and engrossing throughout and at the time of the film's release prompted some to refer to her as the greatest film actress of the day.