Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet

MARC GERVAIS
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zx1k
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  • Book Info
    Ingmar Bergman
    Book Description:

    Gervais shows also how Bergman's work resonates in a much broader sphere than the personal. His films, which are without equal in the history of cinema in quality, consistency, and relevance, are crucial moments in an ongoing conversation with western culture in its frenetic evolution since World War II.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6779-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    LIV ULLMANN

    As I write this, Ingmar Bergman continues to be a very close friend and, at times, a very valued artistic collaborator. To be sure, there were those other years a few decades ago, when our sharing of our lives, both personally and professionally, was intense. So, when I think of his movies, for example, how do I approach them? For me – and I’ve mentioned this a few times in past writings – it tends, of course, to be a series of very personal things: intuitions about his past, painful or joyful memories, a capturing of moments, of a nuance, or of...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    Starting out on this kind of book, inevitably one feels the need to point readers in the right direction, disabusing them of false expectations. And so one informs them on matters such as just what one is up to, the methodology employed, and perhaps the problems arising from one’s approach, given the context of what at the moment the “correct,” or at least fashionable, way may be to deal with such matters.

    What follows, then, are a number of considerations which do not constitute the main point of this book but which may well be judged as essential if one...

  7. PRELUDE: SUMMER IDYLL
    (pp. 15-20)

    The scene was straight out of a Bergman film, or, to put it more precisely, a Bergman film of the 1950s. It was one of those blessed summer solstice days when even as far south as Stockholm the sun is rarely below the horizon. It would take a Wordsworth or a Keats to describe the countryside bathed in almost unending warm light, the earth exploding in bird sounds and flowers, and grass and foliage of every imaginable shade of green.

    June 1968. I was strolling from my friends’ home in Lidingö down a country dirt lane leading to the nearby...

  8. CHAPTER ONE IN THE BEGINNING
    (pp. 22-31)

    For a non-Scandinavian, seeing most of Bergman’s first nine feature movies is no easy matter. In the late 1950s afterThe Seventh Seal, Bergman films began appearing in most major North American cities, and film institutes, cinemathèques, film clubs, or universities could manage to find a print of some of the movies, even of some of those precedingThe Seventh Seal– but only as far back asSummer Interlude, initially released long before in Sweden, in 1951.

    But what of those nine other, earliest (pre-Summer Interlude) features? In June 1992 at the Swedish Film Institute, Mikael Timm and I were...

  9. CHAPTER TWO SUMMER TEARS, SUMMER SMILES
    (pp. 32-45)

    So explodes the soundtrack of the film. The speaker’s young lover (Birger Malmsten) has just died. In his hospital room, the youthful ballerina Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson), looking at each one of us, or rather, just past our right shoulder(s), with flat deadened eyes, a deep inner look, recites in an incantatory voice these words almost straight out of a Sartre play or novel in theirprise de consciencevis à vis the ultimate absurdity, death. Lurking behind her, the Seducer, the tragic romantic figure of her Uncle Erland (Georg Funkquist), softly calls her away to forget, to steel her heart,...

  10. CHAPTER THREE THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
    (pp. 46-69)

    So we return toThe Seventh Seal, the inspiration and catalyst for the “Summer Idyll” prelude, which will reappear for special study and demonstration in the final part of the book. Perhaps now is a good time to reiterate what has already been suggested: the “debt” of the sixteen previous films toThe Seventh Seal. Just as it was the resounding international acclaim surrounding this film (and some of its successors, such asWild Strawberries) that spurred distributors from various countries into buying the rights to earlier films (especially those fromSummer Interludeon), so our own way of looking...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR THE WANING OF THE LIGHT
    (pp. 70-87)

    An artist in search of a cinematic form that would more adequately communicate his soul state: was that Ingmar Bergman 1960? That may seem a rather presumptuous assumption, a notion I seem determined to suggest in a number of ways, and perhaps unjustifiably. After all, Bergman by now was the acknowledged showman of the art cinema, apparently capable of mastering the techniques of just about any school, any method; and, more than that, of integrating everything into an intensely personal, organically coherent, signifying whole. A creative exuberance exploiting to the full the immense resources of film language and glorying in...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE INGENTING ... OR ALMOST
    (pp. 88-113)

    BeforePersonaBergman was incarnating a cultural struggle very much part of the post–World War II climate, extending it as far as he could in the most personal and yet broadly relevant terms of reference, adhering to an aesthetic adapted to that – an aesthetic that, relatively speaking, remained somewhat traditional, however profoundly he was evolving within those established parameters.

    But withPersonaBergman bursts out of these parameters, very much in the manner that the 1960s may be said to have exploded with expressions of a new sensibility. That is what we shall be exploring as we follow the...

  13. CHAPTER SIX JUST DOING MY JOB
    (pp. 114-135)

    The following are excerpts from my interview with Ingmar Bergman that took place in 1970 a few weeks before the actual shooting ofThe Touch. The fiftythree-year-old Bergman was fairly bouncing with vitality and good cheer, and speaking very positively about life and about movie-making. So of course I objected:

    Q.: And yet your most recent films seem, if anything, more pessimistic than ever. InThe Passion of Anna, for example, what can be more hopeless than Andreas Winkelman’s despair and humiliation (even to the point of the disintegration of the image at the end)?

    BERGMAN: In a way that’s...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN THE LITTLE WORLD?
    (pp. 136-143)

    AfterAutumn SonataIngmar Bergman’s activity as a film director, one is tempted to say, peters out anti-climactically – with of course the prodigious exception ofFanny and Alexander.Bergman was spending more and more time “unofficially” in Sweden, and that permitted him, in leisurely fashion, to make his secondFårö Document. The theatrical activity was continuing back in Munich; there he directed his strange and anti-cinematic movie,From the Life of the Marionettes, hardly a Bergman “film,” even though he himself rates it as such. Then came his “official” finale,Fanny and Alexander. That was to be followed by a...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT FADE INTO A DREAM: A CONCLUSION?
    (pp. 144-150)

    Almost thirty years ago, late August, 1970: We are at Svensk Filmindustri’s Råsunda Studios, which will soon close its doors, thereby ending a long and distinguished chapter in the history of Swedish filmmaking. We are enjoying one of the regularly recurring hiatuses forced upon us by the changing of the 16mm film reels every ten minutes as we interview Ingmar Bergman. My chair is close to his; with a ruleful smile, he reaches over and grabs my arm. “I’m sorry to be talking this way. you mustn’t be enjoying what you’re hearing!”

    I remember protesting, with something like “No, no,...

  16. THE IMAGES
    (pp. PS1-PS64)
  17. PREAMBLE TO THE PRIVILEGED MOMENT
    (pp. 152-155)

    It’s strawberries and milk time again. Finally I set about doing what I admitted in the preface that I would have liked to do much earlier on in the book. Yes,trulyto describe in depth a privileged moment, seriously “to get at the data” and, proceeding specifically from this base, to demonstrate how “meaningfulness” emerges, i.e., how from one’s own particular appropriation of aspects of our culture, one brings meaning, in terms of that culture, to Bergman’s artistic communication. To an extent, of course, I have been fulfilling the “bring meaning” part of that mandate, but as I have...

  18. CHAPTER NINE INTO THE TRENCHES
    (pp. 156-193)

    The “Strawberries and Milk” segment is the middle sequence ofThe Seventh Seal, the eighth sequence out of a total of fifteen. It is made up of forty-one shots, lasting just over nine minutes and forty-seven seconds.¹ The setting is a forest meadow by the sea, one end sloping gently down to the water, the other running up a slight incline, leading to an uneven horizon line broken here and there by small trees and shrubs.

    The tone and general atmosphere breathe peace and serenity, with the stillness of nature only heightened by soft bird sounds, a baby’s gurglings, the...

  19. CHAPTER TEN THE BERGMAN MAGIC
    (pp. 194-218)

    Once the digging in the trenches was completed, the promise went, we would be free to gambol in the fields of cultural appropriation. To a limited extent we have done our job of delving into the sights and the sounds, into the way they are textured, structured, put together. Not without a certain amount of cheating, it was freely admitted: even at this stage, there was some straying beyond strict description/analysis. With Gimli (to shift into a Tolkienesque mode), I could not resist adventuring into Legolas’s magical world, emerging from the digging to explore the giddy elevated regions of poetry,...

  20. CHAPTER ELEVEN NOW ABOUT TELEVISION
    (pp. 220-230)

    The Rite, After the Rehearsal, Scenes from a Marriage, The Magic Flute, Face to Face, Fanny and Alexander, and the twoFårö Documents– all of these were included (some more, some less) in section 1 of this book, dedicated to the study of the feature movies directed by Ingmar Bergman. Yet in varying degrees, they are works primarily created for television.

    That leads us to the inescapable: the Bergman and television question. No easy matter, this, especially for a foreigner, like myself, who has not had the opportunity of seeing the majority of Bergman’s work in this medium. There does...

  21. EPILOGUE LARGE SECOND THOUGHTS, OR, IT DID NOT END IN 1983
    (pp. 232-250)

    The first section ended on a mixed note of admiration, affection, a touch of sadness. And that was supposed to be the conclusion to this study on Ingmar Bergman. But inevitably I was suffering all kinds of misgivings. For example – and as has been made clear from Jannike Åhland’s TV overview – had I not violated my own “rules” (of dealing with only themovies directedby Ingmar Bergman) by feasting also on TV/film hybrids, especiallyScenes from a Marriage, The Magic Flute, and, of course,Fanny and Alexander?More importantly, what about all the other (ignored) TV work, the prodigious...

  22. FILM LIST
    (pp. 251-252)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 253-257)