Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

I keep wondering which film or films I should write about next, but it seems fate is pretty good about curing my indecisiveness. I learned this morning that director Ingmar Bergman passed away at the age of 89.

While Bergman has one of the most impressive filmographies imaginable, I've only managed to catch 6 of them so far, something I would like to remedy in the not too distant future if I can help it, but of the ones I've seen, he was a ridiculously talented director. His films are very stark and bleak, at least the ones I've seen are, but they are so fascinating, that I push through them.

Sadly, it has been awhile since I've seen any of these films, so I don't know that I can expound upon them in any great detail, but I can share my thoughts and reactions to them, as I recall them.

The first Bergman I saw was The Seventh Seal (1957), and while it is arguable his most iconic work, it was the one that resonated with me the least. I can't offer a reason why, it's just sometimes that films can get under your skin and affect you, and at other times, it's inability to creep in leaves you with a sense of indifference. It's entirely possible that had I seen it another day, my reaction mihgt be different, but as it stands, I was a little uninterested in it.
Chronologically, the next film in his canon was Wild Strawberries (1958), which I enjoyed far more. It's a somber, largely meditative piece about an old man confronting his pending mortality. Very dark, the nightmare scenes in particular, but I loved it.

Following that, I saw Bergman's "Trilogy of Faith," which was made up of the films Through A Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1962), and The Silence (1963). Depending on the day you ask, one of the former two would be considered my favorite Bergman. I love both immensely.

Through A Glass Darkly involves a young mentally ill woman who eventually sees God through a spider, while her father has been exploiting her illness for finanical gain through his writing.

Winter Light, probably Bergman's most bleak film, involves a clergyman who endures a crisis of faith after a man comes to him for help with his depression and he is unable to save him.

The Silence is a film I don't honestly recall that well, but it is a sexually provacative film involving two sisters -- one sickly, one very sexual -- who are traveling through Europe and in a foreign country seemingly on the brink of war. They vie for the attention of the sexual one's young son, ultimately tearing apart their bond.

Cries And Whispers (1972) also tells a tale of sisters. Two sisters come to the aid of the third sister, who is dying of cancer. However, they come with ulterior motives. Again, it has been so long since I've seen this one, I sort of mentally filed it away "really loved it," but the specifics now escape me.

The final film I saw was also probably Bergman's most personal, Fanny and Alexander (1983), which is an epic film about the Ekdahl family through the eyes of 10-year old Alexander, in turn of the century Sweden. Probably his most sweet-natured film despite the usual melancholy.

There are so many other Bergman films I need to see, and while it was not entirely unexpected that he would pass away, it's not any less saddening to see one of the greats go out.

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