30 July, 2007

Ingmar Bergman: ENDGAME

The Game is Over. But this image will live on imprinted in our collective consciousness, in that universal bank of essential images which hovers somewhere linking us even if we've never seen the film in question, THE SEVENTH SEAL. And there were many more: The fused faces of the female protagonists of PERSONA, and the burning of the film at the end. The floating bodies at the end of SHAME. The negative images of nightmare creatures in HOUR OF THE WOLF. The fades to red in CRIES AND WHISPERS. The protagonist in A PASSION walking endlessly back and forth in torment on a isolated Baltic island in that film's final image. Just a very few from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Ingmar Bergman's passing is not a tragedy as much as a reminder of something perhaps lost. He made Tragedies and a surprising amount of Comedies, the news was for me like a splash of ice cold water in the middle of a hot Summer. And there is no one around who can replace him. Like Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa or Stanley Kubrick, he was a singular giant who made films his own way.

I can't even begin to calculate how many filmmakers have been inspired by/borrowed his images for thrillers, dramas and horror films. His influence on such major figures as Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavetes, Monte Hellman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Woody Allen cannot be denied. Films like PERFORMANCE, TWO LANE BLACKTOP, THREE WOMEN, STALKER, INTERIORS, or keeping our own blog topic in mind, DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY, have that hushed, internal tone, and are sometimes built around the specific image structures which the great director burned onto celluloid. And they weren't all high-toned. Even, God forbid, the dreadful THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a remake of THE VIRGIN SPRING. And Bergman also made exploitation of sorts, THE DEVIL'S WANTON (1949) and SUMMER WITH MONKIA (1952), the latter being one of my personal favorites along with SUMMER INTERLUDE, which has the world of ballet as a backdrop, an artform in which I have zero interest. The disturbing, erotic SAWDUST AND TINSEL, is strikingly similar to early Fellini (cf LA STRADA) while showing the influence of German Expressionism.

He also made Le Bad Cinema: THE TOUCH (1971), THE SERPENT'S EGG (1976). The highly enjoyable, and underrated, FROM THE LIVES OF MARIONETTES (1980), can almost be described as his entree into Eurotrash.

Ingmar Bergman wasn't my favorite director or even the best director who ever lived, at least in my view. He made Film, Cinema. An Ingmar Bergman Film. You didn't go to see an Ingmar Bergman Movie. But they were moving pictures, as if Edvard Munch had become a cinematographer, in high contrast B&W, exquisite chiaroscuro, muted color. He had a long, successful career and life. When I heard about his death at the age of 89 this morning I wanted to thank him for what he gave me. The will to become a writer and a filmmaker. It didn't all work out the way I wanted, but that's not what counts. What counts are images like the one at the top of this blog.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007


scott said...


what a loss, though he made more than most of his contemporaries.

Robert Monell said...

For some reason, I've never purchased any of his films on DVD. I prefer to see them in 35mm on the big screen. Although I would like to have PERSONA.

Pappy said...
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