A man who asked the questions
 →  → 
Festival in Media
2018-10-15

At this year's film festival, with Swedish Film Institute, Swedish Institute and the Embassy of Sweden, we will offer films of Ingmar Bergman which are impossible to talk about a cinema history without. A special programme will screen: Summer with Monika, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Autumn Sonata, and Fanny and Alexander. Besides, the section "Bergman - 100" will show a documentary film about Bergman by Marie Nyreröd - Bergman Island.

"When I was born in 1918, my mother had Spanish influenza. I was in a bad way and was baptized as a precaution at the hospital. One day the family was visited by the old house doctor, who looked at me and said: 'He's dying of under-nourishment.' My maternal grandmother took me with her to her summer house in Dalarna, and on the train journey, which in those days took a whole day, she fed me with sponge cake soaked in water. By the time we finally arrived, I was practically dead, but Grandmother managed to find a wet nurse - a kindly, fair-haired girl from a neighboring village. I got better, but was always vomiting and had constant stomach-aches. I suffered from several indefinable illnesses and could never really decide whether I wanted to live at all." That's how Ingmar Bergman starts talking about himself in Laterna Magica - asking question. Asking the question which is an inevitable attribute of all his films: questions, doubts, death, life and God... Does God exist at all?

Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala, Sweden. His father was a Lutheran priest and was quite strict to his children. "Most of our upbringing was based on such concepts as sin, punishment, forgiveness and grace... concrete factors in relationships between children and parents and God. There was an innate logic in all this which we accepted and thought we understood." - remembered Bergman in his book.

All his childhood passed surrounded by religious icons and fighting about this matters. As he, himself, says, he was 9 when he realized - God doesn't exist. But this is the question his characters will ask many times. Existentialist issues are driving force of Bergman's work. He was never satisfied with plain theories, demons hidden in human's soul - that's what the Swedish filmmaker always investigated and observed. Bergman's films are very personal and behind the characters fighting against modern life - there's always himself, "armed" with doubts and questions.

He studied art and literature at Stockholm University College but, addicted to movies and theatre, he left the college and went on a tour with theatre troupe. He started writing plays in the 40s. At the same time he started working on scripts in cinema.

Summer with Monika made in 1953 is his work of early period. "Summer with Monika is to the cinema today what Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915) is to the classical cinema." - that's how Jean Luc Godard described the film of Swedish filmmaker. According to Woody Allen, if previous films of Bergman were under American influence, this film starring Harriet Andersson, made a break-through after which Bergman reached his strong, poetic style.

"Summer with Monika" is an esthetic, absolutely unsentimental love story of teenagers. For beautiful Harriet Andersson, "Summer with Monika" is the first of many Bergman's films. Monika is a shopkeeper. A reckless love story with Harry ends her routine and boring work. A camera of Bergman's favorite cinematographer puts the passion of couple in love against idyllic seashore and an everyday life of bleak working-class milieu. Nudity and erotic shots in the film brought scandalous fame to Bergman and Swedish cinematograph.

Theatre and cinema - these are the two elements which always followed Bergman. Theatre performances were followed by successful film premieres. Acknowledged film works were followed by successful stage shows.

His first and the biggest success is related to the film "The Seventh Seal", which was inspired by frescos. The films was made in 35 days with quite low budget. The premiere was followed by a great response and it brought fame to the director as well as 27 year old actor Max von Sydow. Molière based Misanthrope staged the same year was named as the main event of the 50s' Swedish theatre.

The same year, Bergman makes "Wild Strawberies". In this film, the great actor and director of silent era Victor Sjöström plays Isak Borg, who sees his own death in his dreams. Aged professor remembers his life and mistakes made. Bergman expresses the ideas with mirrors and dreams which is actually a mirror of mind. A film, where scenes perfectly turn into dreamy landscapes, was awarded at Berlin Film Festival and Academy Awards.

In 1965, Bergman writes a script after a long illness. Existential drama "Persona", where main characters are performed by Bibi Andersson and young Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann. A young actress Elisabet decides to become mute and never speak again and a nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) is put in charge of her. Soon it becomes clear that actress' behavior has two sides: one, it's a moral desire to stay innocent but on the other side it's a sort of sadism, almost irreversible power, which gives an opportunity to manipulate with the nurse. The nurse has to talk, all the time. At the end of the film, the two characters happen to be involved in hopeless duel of identities, the one Strindberg loved. Bergman turned this confrontation into the metaphor of language, art and consciousness.

In 1978, Autumn Sonata comes out on screens. No one has ever described the relation full of love and loath between mother and daughter. "I want make a film about mother and a daughter, a daughter and a mother. And these two roles will definitely be played by Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann.", wrote the filmmaker. The village house of pastor and his wife Eva is visited by Eva's mother - a famous pianist Charlotte. It's their first meet in last seven years. Ingrid Bergman perfectly brings out love, sorrow and guilt of a mother. Ingmar Bergman involves flashbacks and close-ups, where she answers the greatest fear of the daughter that her sadness gives her mother a secret pleasure.

Fanny and Alexander (1982) is one of the greatest projects of Ingmar Bergman. It took the filmmaker half a year and 6 million dollars to make this film. The story of sister and brother was noted with 4 Oscars, David di Donatello and Golden Globe awards. The Ekdahls are well-off middle class family, related to theatre. They find their shelter from surrounding chaos in theatre world. A turbulent year of the family is seen from 10-year-old Alexander's eyes. His imagination becomes wilder with the events following the death of his father. Second marriage of his mother with strict bishop puts an end to the fun of Alexander and his sister Fanny.

After that, Bergman makes two TV movies and stages King Lear and Hamlet. In 1987, his autobiography Laterna Magica comes out.

Surprisingly, he states that he leaves the cinema and goes back to the theatre. "I quit this filthy and merchant affair" - he said. But in 2003, at the age of 83 he returns to the filmmaking with "Saraband". Accompanied by the music of Bach and Brahms, the audience watches the TV-spectacle of Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, where ex-wife returns to his husband on one fine day of Autumn, waking him up with a kiss. That's when Bergman said: "The theater is like a faithful wife. The film is the great adventure -- the costly, exacting mistress."

As he himself claimed, he didn't love to watch his own films, because this films made him depressed. Ingmar Bergman, with Sven Nykvist, his cinematographer managed to take out the inner world of humans.

Ingmar Bergman died in his castle on July 30th, 2007, at the age of 89. On the island of Fårö, in the big house surrounded with tall, tall fence.


* * *

In the section a documentary film by Marie Nyreröd - Bergman Island will be screened, which was made in 2004. Four year before he died, he was captured in the camera of Swedish documentalist Nyreröd , in his own house on the island of Fårö. He talked about his work, fears, regrets and creative aspirations. This film includes the most open hearted interviews a director, away from the society's attention, has ever taken part in. Later these interviews turned into a feature film - Bergman Island. A deep, sincere film by Nyreröd which keeps a bunch of stories from Bergman's private and creative life, allows us to take a last glimpse at a human being who changed the cinema. A man who asked the questions.

View: 1127