By Owen Gleiberman
Updated February 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Faithless marks the second time that Liv Ullmann has directed a script by Ingmar Bergman, and the movie, a searing close up epic of adultery, is so layered with associations from their previous work — not just ”Scenes From a Marriage” but every moment Ullmann ever turned her face to the camera in voluptuous anguish — that the result feels immersed in a chamber of memory.

Marianne (Lena Endre), a serenely willful actress, destroys the affectionate and sensual haven of her marriage by commencing an affair with the couple’s good friend (Krister Henriksson). Bergman, who now views his characters with the lordly detachment of a psychoanalytic deity, homes in on the terrifying hidden design of adultery — the way that its very destructiveness can fulfill a couple’s secret need to tear at and caress each other’s wounds.

When Marianne’s husband (Thomas Hanzon) discovers the affair, he exacts a terrible price that feels as intimate in its vengeance as any marital bond. Erland Josephson, as Bergman’s stand in confessor, has to do a bit too much empathetic staring, but ”Faithless” is a domestic tragedy of lacerating vision.

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