PRIVATE CONFESSIONS does justice to its stellar origins. Like Bergman's earlier SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, the film unpeels the layers in a husband-wife relationship over a period of decades. It begins in 1925 as the 36-year-old Anna Bergman (luminously played by Pernilla August) confesses to an elderly priest (von Sydow), that she is having an affair.
He advises her to break it off and tell her husband the truth. Each scene is essentially an encounter: between Anna and her husband, her lover, best friend, or the priest.
As the story moves forward in time and then, dramatically, backwards to when Anna was 18, we come to understand the ways in which honesty, love, loyalty, and sexual passion play different roles at each stage of one's life. Bergman seems to be suggesting that "the truth" is not only relative, it is constantly changing. And perhaps it never "is" at all.