What do we need to procure a powerful imagination? A childhood steeped in traumatic events, emotionally supportive family members, being exposed to various quirky people, enriching early experiences, long hours of solitude…. Ingmar Bergman in Fanny and Alexander, his ode to the origins of imagination, suggests that all of the above is true. Bergman’s semi-autobiographical farewell gift to cinema is a reflection on what nourished his imagination to create decades of outstanding cinematic work.
Tag: Ingmar Bergman
For those accustomed to Ingmar Bergman’s more serious fare, such as the austere Winter Light or his foreboding The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night is a light-hearted, utterly amusing antidote. It is the Bergman film for people who don’t like Bergman. Of course, the film has some of the usual touches of the Swedish director: familiar actors such as Gunnar Bjornstrand and Harriet Andersson, a theater scene within the film, characters revealing their most intimate thoughts to others, etc. However, while Bergman typically dedicates an entire film to the intense inner turmoil of one or two characters, in Smiles there are many characters struggling with anxieties that are often exploited to a farcical end.
The confessional scene from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal follows Antonios Block (Max von Sydow) as he struggles through a crisis of faith. The film’s opening sequence sees the physical embodiment of Death (Bengt Ekerot) come for the knight’s life but, for reasons explained during the confession scene, Block challenges Death to a game of chess to decide his fate. Traveling through a country devastated by the Black Death, Block is also dealing with the societal wreckage left in its wake. His confession in this scene is a direct response to his confrontation with the personification of Death and the actual death he has already encountered.
With Thirst (1949), Ingmar Bergman, a visionary master of cinema, made his first contribution to the exploration of marriage — a topic he would return to most memorably in Scenes from a Marriage (1974). It is often argued that Thirst’s imbalanced and loosely connected storylines and intermittent flashbacks muddle the overall effect of the film, but the individual scenes stand as brilliant musings on relationships between men and women. Pieced together from a collection of short stories, the disconnectedness of the narrative can be excused. As an early example of classic Bergman themes and aesthetics, Thirst is an interesting piece to analyze due to its raw examination of the nature of men and women as two emotionally distinct species.
One of the most academically and critically acclaimed films of all times, Persona is a precious jewel in the history of world cinema. Its creator Ingmar Bergman had relentlessly stretched the boundaries of what we call cinema today throughout his career, but never before (or since) as significantly as he did with Persona. Many brilliant critics and academics have analyzed the bottomless depths of Persona. Here, I will concentrate on a few points that personally resonate with me every time I watch it.
“Nostalgia” originates from the Greek “nostos” (return home) and “algos” (pain). This February, my grandfather passed away. As he began to slip away, he swiftly grasped at the air with his hands. I asked him what he was reaching for, and he said he was ready to go home. Naturally, we all assumed he was making a grand proclamation that he was about to ascend into heaven. He clarified that he was reaching for his keys and as he struggled to get up he restated, “I want to go home to 101”. 101 Edgehill Road is the address my grandfather resided in for over 50 years and is the home that he entrusted to my care. His determination to return to 101 was quite remarkable and utterly surreal.
Like most cinephiles, I went through a major Ingmar Bergman phase. I devoured a chunk of his films from the classic (THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY) to the obscure (THE PASSION OF ANNA). Four films of his, however, will always hold a special place in my heart: SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, THE VIRGIN SPRING, WILD STRAWBERRIES and THE SEVENTH SEAL. Admittedly, those are probably Bergman’s most famous films. These four films, a sex comedy, a rape/revenge thriller, a redemption drama and an allegorical seriocomedy, provide a quick glimpse of Bergman the filmmaker and Bergman the person.