The Rite marks Bergman's first made-for-television project, it explores an issue that he continued to return to throughout his career; the artist's place in society and the often troubled relationship between men and women. Filmed with a cast of just four principal actors, the story revolves around three close friends, including a husband and wife, who make up a theatre troupe. They have been prohibited from performing a short play called 'The Rite' and are brought before the local magistrate on charges of obscenity. Through ruthless interrogation and humiliation, innermost secrets are revealed and hidden relationships disclosed, but they still convince the judge to allow them a private performance solely for him.
One crazed, internally conflicted judge; three batty and intermittently violent actors accused of obscene performances: a cast of four. That makes an extravaganza for Bergman as author and director and gives a spectrum of opportunities for the distinguished cast in wild but perfectly controlled performances. And then – it is a real pleasure to have a carefully and exactly controlled film that is only 74 minutes long. I ask for no more. We get masterly construction, excellent camera work and acting, leading to speculative outcomes from an ambiguous ending.