REVIEW BY VINCENT CANBY, NY TIMES:
It is summer, 1914. As the inspired
poetaster might say, storm clouds are gathering over Europe. In
Stockholm the days are long and limpid. Linnea (Amanda Ooms), a young
woman from the country, is befriended by the beautiful, worldly Anna
(Helena Bergstrom), who is just about her age and has a photography
studio next door to Linnea's attic room. Anna is a free soul.
She drinks wine before breakfast and, at all hours, smokes cigarettes in
holders long enough to be used as back-scratchers. She talks about art
and ambience but makes her living by taking photographs to illustrate
Before long, Anna has seduced Linnea into posing for her nude. The two
women share Anna's small bed, but whether, as the euphemism might have
it, they actually sleep together is left to the viewer's discretion.
Nothing is made too explicit in Carl-Gustaf Nykvist's pretty, mournful,
sort of aimless ''Women on the Roof.''
Anna, who is running away from a much
older lover in Vienna, and Linnea are happy with their art and their
sleeping arrangements when, one night, Willy drops in on them. He comes
down through the skylight.
Willy (Stellan Skarsgard), a dashing sailor, was apparently instrumental
in getting Anna safely out of Vienna. (One shouldn't ask where his ship
was docked.) A menage a trois develops. Willy wants to take the two
women to America and get rich, but then there is a terrible accident.
The two women end up on the roof, doing exactly what, I dare not say.
''The Women on the Roof'' is the first fiction feature by Mr. Nykvist,
the son of Sven, the great cinematographer. It is a maddening though not
difficult movie, full of odd and visually arresting details that never
quite come together.
It seems to be composed entirely of hints. On a Sunday afternoon, while
boating in the park, Linnea looks up at a bridge to see a woman walking
with a little dog. The camera holds the image so long that the Chekhov
story must come to mind.
Willy takes Linnea out for a night of midsummer revels with the members
of a theatrical troupe. He tells her that he goes ''up in smoke'' when
he listens to Shakespeare, that Shakespeare makes him forget all of the
people he has disappointed.
That is a picturesque idea (possibly made more picturesque by the
English subtitles), which leads nowhere. That Anna turns out to be not
quite the free soul she has pretended to be comes as less of a surprise
than is intended.
''The Women on the Roof'' is a loose picture puzzle. All of the pieces
are in their proper places, but the complete picture is fuzzy.
The movie muses about the meaning of photography, which freezes time
and, possibly, the nature of the person photographed. But it's just a
thought that passes through the head of the movie and out again, leaving
no particular impression, much like the movie itself.
Miss Ooms, Miss Bergstrom and Mr. Skarsgård
are extremely attractive. Once Anna has cut Linnea's hair, in the style
of the liberated woman, the two actresses look enough alike to be
sisters. This seems merely an accident of casting, not necessary to the
development of the movie.
''The Women on the Roof'' is no ''Persona.'' It is heavier on
atmosphere, mood and plot than on psychological interest. It is like a
Polaroid picture after the shutter has been snapped, though, as one
watches, the details of the image slowly fade away instead of coming
into sharp focus.