Author Topic: Ingmar Bergman  (Read 240 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Ingmar Bergman
« on: March 13, 2014, 09:18:53 AM »
I've been a Bergman fan since I saw Seventh Seal 20 years ago.  It was a stark, brilliant film and despite being 40 years old, felt very modern to me.

I saw Through a Glass Darkly a year or two ago.  I did not find it very compelling or even interesting.  But my film/ literary deconstruction skills are rusty, and I've gotten quite lazy in my viewing habits.  All but the most obvious points sail past me.

Some kind member here suggested I continue with Bergman's "god" trilogy, and watch Winter Light and The Silence.  I tried to see who, but the search function did not find it.

I watched Winter Light last night.  I found it a little slow half way through (at Marta's letter), but by the end I was trying to put it all together - themes, motivations.  It definitely grappled with the ideas of god, belief and faith, but it struck me as being less about any of those things than it was about relationships and isolation.  It seemed to take god's absence as a given, not a question, and work from there.  Bergman seemed to be asking, since there is no god, now what?  How do we put anything into perspective?  He seemed to find a godless universe stark and bitter.

The Pastor - Tomas[1] - had lost his wife and his faith.  That was clearly drawing a connection between god and love, and he did say at one point God is love, love is god.  If love and god are one, other people were the vehicle to finding god.  Relationships were the way to salvation and isolation was hell. And everyone in the film was isolated.  None of the relationships were happy or without an ugly side.   

Tomas had carried on a relationship with Marta for two years, but she was not particularly nice to him and he was revolted by her.  Algot seeks friendship with Tomas, but Tomas appears to detest him.  Jonas and his wife may have a decent relationship but for his depression and suicidal thoughts. And so it goes.

I could not figure out what the title "Winter Light" had to do with the film's themes.  Was the light a reference to love?  It was winter in the story.  The light in Sweden in winter is brief - it showed darkness at 3:00pm in the film - and even on a clear day, the light does not help warm you.   One of the characters - Jonas - had a family that loved him, but even still he could not find "warmth" or a reason to live.  In fact, everyone who reached out was rejected in some way by the ones they reached out to, and in turn rejected those who reached out to them.  Everyone wanted love, but no one was willing to accept it.

I read that the original title in Swedish was The Communicants.  That made a lot more sense to me.  The only characters were the paltry congregants of a fading church who receive communion in the opening scenes.  But it also refers to communication.  Either way you view it you find the negative.  The congregants all sit apart. The Pastor mistreats Marta.  Marta's love also comes with sharp criticism. When Jonas comes to Tomas for help, Tomas can only talk about himself.  Tomas finds Algot detestable in some way (perhaps for his ability to maintain absolute faith). 

They all fail to communicate, except possibly Algot, who succinctly describes torture as being let down by those you love.  He uses the passion of christ as his context.  He pointed out that jesus' torture physically only lasted about 4 hours.  He suggested his own physical pain and suffering - he was a hunchback - was probably much worse and over a much longer time.  But the emotional torture - being abandoned by his disciples - was the real torture.  And being abandoned by god while on the cross was the worst.  He quoted Matt 27:46. I took this as him innocently and unintentionally underscoring Tomas' isolation and despair.  Following that, the film ends as Tomas begins the mass for his congregation of two - Marta and Algot, both of whom he despises - it being the only connection he has to anyone, his only way to godless salvation.

Anyone else who has seen this film, please add your insight.
 1. Doubting Tomas, I've read
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Online Nam

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 01:26:45 PM »
The only Bergman film I've seen recently is "Persona (1966)" -- though, it does seem he does take this solemn yet dark approach to his characters in his films; sometimes the void he sort of portrays in women, such as in "Kvinna utan ansikte (A Woman Without a Face) (1947)". I don't think his films are necessarily about the story being told but about the characters being portrayed.

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously - Humphrey

Offline screwtape

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 01:45:11 PM »
I agree, Nam.  The plot and the characters are only there to demonstrate broader ideas.  This is why to me his movies feel like they border on abstract or avant garde.

I also saw the Virgin Spring.  It was about a medieval lord (farmer) whose daughter is murdered.  The murderers end up staying at his house[1] and he finds out the truth. 

I found this one to be much more about theodicy and the utter absence of god.  At the end the lord, played by Max von Sydow, prays to god and promises to build a church at the sight his daughter was murdered.  He raises his arms skyward, but the way the scene was shot - from behind von Sydow and at somewhat of a distance - it made his gestures and oaths appear impotent and ridiculous.[2] 

I recommend these movies with the caveat that they are demanding of the viewer.  They are not easy to immediately grasp.  You must put in effort.

 1. I believe they made a film like this recently called Last House on the Left, only it was more of an action/ suspense movie.  No brains, no soul.
 2. there was a commentary on the film with Ang Lee who said he loved that shot because it made von Sydow look powerful, so he copied that shot in other movies.  That plus The Hulk lead me to conclude Ang Lee is an idiot.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2014, 10:35:53 AM by screwtape »
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Offline jdawg70

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 01:49:19 PM »
The only Bergman film I've seen recently is "Persona (1966)" -- though, it does seem he does take this solemn yet dark approach to his characters in his films; sometimes the void he sort of portrays in women, such as in "Kvinna utan ansikte (A Woman Without a Face) (1947)". I don't think his films are necessarily about the story being told but about the characters being portrayed.

-Nam

Bergman's work tend to be primarily insights into the human condition.  It is in that respect that his films are predominantly character driven.  Wild Strawberries is probably the penultimate exemplification of this - the story serves as a framing device for Isak Borg's introspective journey and evaluation of his meaning of life.
"When we landed on the moon, that was the point where god should have come up and said 'hello'. Because if you invent some creatures, put them on the blue one and they make it to the grey one, you f**king turn up and say 'well done'."
- Eddie Izzard

Online Nam

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 04:10:17 PM »
I recommend these movies with the caveat that they are demanding of the viewer.  They are not easy to immediately grasp.  You must put in effort.

Though not Bergman (but Sjöman), I watched yesterday "Jag är nyfiken - en film i blått/Jag är nyfiken - en film i gult (1967/8) -- talk about films that one must put effort into. Though I enjoyed the first one better than the second even though they're basically the same film.

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously - Humphrey

Offline mrbiscoop

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 05:50:53 PM »
   I'm much more interested in Ingrid Bergman movies.
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.
              -Emo Philips

Online Nam

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2014, 11:09:00 PM »
   I'm much more interested in Ingrid Bergman movies.

Who isn't?



-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously - Humphrey

Offline screwtape

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Re: Ingmar Bergman
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2014, 07:51:27 AM »
   I'm much more interested in Ingrid Bergman movies.

Who isn't?


yeah.  She was great.  I liked Gaslight even though I tend to not like most films made before about 1977. 

I liked that Ingmar used a lot of the same people in all his movies.  Like the Coen brothers do now.  And Wes Anderson. 
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