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John Simkin

Ingmar Bergman

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Ingmar Bergman died yesterday. You will find an excellent obituary here:

http://film.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/0,,2138240,00.html

This article by Peter Bradshaw is also worth reading.

http://film.guardian.co.uk/bergman/story/0,,2138253,00.html

After receiving one of his numerous awards he told a journalist: “I hope I never get so old I get religious”. Well, you did get old, but you never sold out.

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Ingmar Bergman is an interesting character. It's interesting to read obits and analysis of him by those who don't 'suffer' from the classic 'Swedish Angst'. Strangely enough it is hard to mourn him. Perhaps one grew up knowing him and the plethora of early films about the human condition and like in The Seventh Seal, playing chess with death, one has already been with him from his life to his death and beyond.

As mentioned Bergman went through stages. I suggest he didn't. At least not of the nature as many suggest.

Primarily he was a theatre director who filmed theatre.

He carefully prepared sets and rehearsed his actors till he was satisfied. Then he had the brilliant cinematographer Nyqvist film the 'action'.

IOW, he was unique in bringing theatre to feature film format. His stage was either such as the Red Rooms, or just nature as in Monica.

He used close ups and carefully constructed pan and zoom sequences to create atmosphere. Silence was just as important as dialogue. ie. he 'constructed' filmed theatre that, as primarily an accomplished theatre dirtector produced, in conjunction with a brilliant team, a series of unique filmed theatre that were seen as 'films' in other countries and analysed as such.

___________

Sweden has a somewhat unique sense of humour. An example is a joke translated from Swedish "Liv ar hart, sa hasten" "Grymt, sa grisen" : "Life is hard, said the horse" "Grunt, said the pig". Nonsense? Yes. Unless one knows that 'grunt' in Swedish is 'grymt' which also means 'cruel'.

Until the advent of electricity in the late 1800's Sweden was a periodically closed society. Winter, to the many small communities where a large majority of Swedes lived, basically shut the door, closed the windows and barned the cattle, and lived off the produce thererof and the preserves stored from the gathering during the non winter months. So, people learned to live close and spend a lot of time finding the necessary solitude doing various crafts and small industries, making do with what was available. Outside the snow piled up.

Introspection and innovation characterised the formation of the Swedish Psyche. The millinnea as a Nordic superpower had gathered considerable wealth, skills and divers culturural influences. 'Discovering' and naming the land of the Rus (Russia), trading down the volga with places as far afield as Baghdad, settling and dominating significant portions of Europe (the Normans, that later took over Britain), Poland, Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, etc, discovering Vinland (America) etc and then by the twentieth century had withdrawn within what largely is the current borders. Yet retains the three crowns as the official emblem, a flag of yellow and blue, evoking the coming of spring and a national anthem that makes no mention of Sweden, just a song about the beautiful North, where one longs to live and to die.

____________

What seems like a gloomy angst ridden Begman is really a personification of the Swedish psyche. To a Swede it is funny, glorious, thought provoking, celebratory, a 'dreaming'. To the foreign observer it appears to be a captivating enigma.

After his global success came a series of Hollywood type films which I don't think Bergman had the background to compete with the wide field of established masters. Nyquist to some extent 'carried' Bergman during this time and maintained some of his integrity. Also Bergmans stable of actors changed and branched off, some like Sydow with an enduring success in the English speaking film world.

Perhaps at this time Bergman should have rested on his laurels and done a Garbo: 'I want to be left alone.'

______________

Akira Kurosawa to some extent parallels Bergman, with his early B/W films with Yushori Mifuni set in feudal Japan. Later with fame came a similar diminuition in stature. Except the necessarily exotic (to the west) feel of his later films assured a continued success in the art cinema world, while Bergman was 'consumed' or overshadowed in his post global successs. His foray into film as opposed to filmed theatre was not successful and IMO while understandable, a mistake.

Edited by John Dolva

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Until the advent of electricity in the late 1800's Sweden was a periodically closed society. Winter, to the many small communities where a large majority of Swedes lived, basically shut the door, closed the windows and barned the cattle, and lived off the produce thererof and the preserves stored from the gathering during the non winter months. So, people learned to live close and spend a lot of time finding the necessary solitude doing various crafts and small industries, making do with what was available. Outside the snow piled up.

I have been to Sweden many times and have several friends from this lovely country. It is probably true that they do not smile as often as people from other countries. However, I have always found them extremely friendly when you get to know them. They also seem to like the English which always helps.

I once went to a meeting at the British Council about developing European partner projects. In one of the seminars we were warned about the Swedes. We were told that they have a means of communicating that gives the impression that they are being "cold and unfriendly". I have never found this to be true, but I thought it interesting that they felt the need to say it.

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