Monday, July 30, 2007

Farewell to a Genius

About 18 hours ago died one of the most important people of this century and I was thinking how exactly I should write this post with a decent farewell message that would express how big Ingmar Bergman was to our modern world. Unfortunatelly there are not enough words to describe this 'foremost figure of the entire cinematic art'as said the official Swedish site.

Bergman was by far my favorite movie director. He was born in Sweden in 1918 and lived a very hard childhood with his abusive father. His tragic young years inspired him to become the greatest storyteller in our time. He was always questioning happiness, the meaning of life and frustrated sexual choices. His movies are some kind of concept, almost a genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Comedy, Drama and Bergman. His movies were often a melancolic view of the childhood and the human innocence and to illustrate his ideas there were surreal scenes like a medievel knight playing chess with Death.

He directed more than 40 films for theater, even more for TV and about 100 plays. He was kindly honored with a file in Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with his work recognized as world patrimony. He became famous when he directed 'The Seventh Seal'. Most movie critics still consider this his best movie ever.

The Seventh Seal (1957)- "The Seventh Seal was always my favourite film, and I remember seeing it with a small audience at the old New Yorker Theatre. Who would have thought that the subject matter could yield such a pleasurable experience? If I described the story and tried to persuade a friend to watch it with me, how far would I get? 'Well,' I'd say, 'it takes place in a plague-ridden medieval Sweden and explores the limits of faith and reason based on Danish — and some German — philosophical concepts.' Now this is hardly anyone's idea of a good time, and yet it's all dealt off with such stupendous imagination, suspense, and flair that one sits riveted like a child at a harrowing fairy tale. Suddenly the black figure of Death appears on the seashore to claim his victim, and the Knight of Reason challenges him to a chess game, trying to stall for time and discover some meaning to life. The tale engages and stalks forward with sinister inevitability. Again, the images are breathtaking! The flagellants, the burning of the witch (worthy of Carl Dreyer), and the finale, as Death dances off with all the doomed people to the nether lands in one of the most memorable shots in all movies. Bergman is prolific, and the films that followed these early works were rich and varied, as his obsession moved from God's silence to the tortured relations between anguished souls trying to make sense of their feelings." (Woody Allen in "Through a Life Darkly.) Bergman was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival with this movie and made his world famous.

His next film Wild Strawberries is a beautifully cold story about an aging teacher who travels to Lund University to receive an award. On the road he's plagued with intrusive hallucinations and memories of his empty life completely dedicated to his career and without human and moral values and devoid of real meaning. This is a cold portrait of an old man who lived his life stepping only on steady and realistic grounds.

The Virgin Spring is one os his most poetic works. A young girl girls travels to church to deliver some candles and on the way she's rapped and killed by three thieves, one of them being a small kid. The thieves ask for shelter on the girl's family farm where hers parents are worried sick about her. The thieves don't know where they are and try to sell the girl's clothes to her relatives who kill them in vengeance. Her parents find the girl dead in the forest and when they remove her cold body from its resting place a spring flows to wash away the family sins.

Persona - A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth's persona.

Cries and Whispers is my favorite Bergman movie. A family drama takes place in a mansion in the late 1800's. Karin and Maria watch over their sister Agnes' sickbed together with the servant Anna. Through flashbacks the lives of both sisters are described, which are full of lies, deceit, callousness, self despise, guilt and forbidden love. Agnes' dramatic death cramp arouses only aversion in them. They both retreat in their own way from her when she grasps for their hands. I believe the most beautiful scene is when Anna hallucinate with the dead Agnes asking for a warm lap to rest. While the sisters are repulsed with the idea of getting close to the dead the servant opens her clothes and offers the warmth of her living body to Agnes resembling Michelangelo's sculpture Pietà.

And to close the circle of my favorite Bergman's movies is Fanny and Alexander; The title characters are children in the exuberant and colorful Ekdahl household in a Swedish town early in the twentieth century. Their parents, Oscar and Emilie, are the director and the leading lady of the local theatre company. Oscar's mother and brother are its chief patrons. After Oscar's early death, his widow marries the bishop and moves with her children to his austere and forbidding chancery. The children are immediately miserable. The film dramatizes and resolves those conflicts. A sub-plot features Isak, a local Jewish merchant who is the grandmother's lover and whose odd household becomes the children's refuge.

Bergman’s cinematic works seem to spring from a storehouse of personal insights and experiences. Some Bergman scholars say they can even detect a kind of autobiographical “life curve” in the very chronology of the films: the vulnerable youths facing an uncomprehending adult world in his early films; the problems of sexuality and marriage in his more mature films of the early 1950s; the religious struggle and artistic problems that characterized his films from the late 1950s and most of the 1960s; and his psychoanalytically oriented films of the 1960s and 1970s, some assuming the form of actual self-analyses where the characters seem more like facets of a single psyche or narrator.

Bergman is a person for whom art and life are one. Nonetheless, there is reason to be cautious about interpreting his works on the basis of narrowly biographical facts. Not only is there a danger of getting stuck in a burdensome cult of personality, but what is worse, Bergman’s works – the films themselves – paradoxically risk ending up in the background while a “diagnosis” of their author’s (supposed) emotional life somehow becomes the main focus.

His melancholy was his main focus. He was a brave artist who attacked directly and ironically instituitions like church, moral and family. Unfortunately there aren't many artistis nowadays with the same guts to continue his legacy.

We lost a great artist today, a great movie director who was worldwide applauded. He left us with a great work and many ways to start to question our own lives and free our spirits from hollywoodesque blockbusters. To see a good action movie is fun, but to look inside human soul is necessary.

"Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls."
Ingmar Bergman

"We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster's whim and the purest ideal."
Ingmar Bergman

"I believe Bergman, De Sica, and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don't just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them."
Stanley Kubrick

"Alexander: If there is a god, then he's a shit, and I'd like to kick him in the butt.
Aron: Your theory is very interesting and appears to be justified."
Fanny and Alexander

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