FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARIONETTES -- At the Outer Circle 1.

A senseless murder is committed. Several people try to make sense of it. They fail.

That is what happens, or rather fails to happen, in the new Ingmar Bergman film, "From the Life of the Marionettes." The only action, filmed in shades of red, is the murder of a prostitute and the sodomization of her corpse; the screen turns cerebral gray for the rest of the film, as people discuss the murderer.

That they can shed no light is, therefore, rather a drawback, symbolized, no doubt, by the half-light in which the picture is made. Even an office scene is kept deliberately dim, below working level. And even for Bergman, this is one dreary picture.

On a consolation visit to the murderer's mother, his wife complains, "You've done nothing but talk about your feelings, your guilt, your problems and your shame." Indeed, none of the characters, including herself, does anything else.This character's most sympathetic moment is when her business partner, a lovelorn homosexual, recites his woes, and she dozes off.

At the end of all these interviews, a psychiatrist who is also a friend of the murderer's, and a failed seducer of the murderer's wife, offers the explanation that the murderer had a domineering mother, lack of contact with his father, latent homosexuality and a wife who is a "self-willed woman."

Not only does this sound like an analysis you might get from a weight machine, the psychiatrist had offered favorable appraisals of each of these members of the family at the beginning of the picture. This psychiatrist had also said that the murderer, who sought his professional advice about murderous desires before the crime, had never consulted him about anything serious. Surely we are not meant to take him seriously.

A senseless crime was committed, and it was senseless. Bergman, whose most famous scene had a man playing chess with death, concludes with this man's playing chess with a computer.