BERGMAN. THE CELEBRATED AND THE OBSCURE



We are pleased to announce that the 40th International Moscow Film Festival will host a retrospective of Ingmar Bergman films on the occasion of his 100th anniversary. There are few Swedish artists who managed to bring worldwide glory to their country. Though Bergman’s name is naturally associated with the no less famous August Strindberg and Søren Kierkegaard who are deeply interrelated with his creative work and philosophy. 
 
Ingmar Bergman lived a long life (1918-2007) and was incredibly hard-working, though his health was weak since childhood. The scope of his legacy is striking in its quantity: 60 documentary and feature films, most of which were written by him, 170 stage productions! Then there are radio plays and a most informative and sincere book “Laterna Magica”
 
Few directors managed to combine film and theatre directing. Moreover, he managed various theatres and since 1968 headed his own studio “Cinematograph”, though not every one of Bergman’s films was commercially successful. The usual paradox. Movies which glorified the name of the outstanding Scandinavian artist throughout the world and which in our mind are immediately associated with the Ingmar Bergman’s name, did not necessarily pay off in his native country. On the other hand the Swedish audience welcomed comedies by the gloomy thinker which helped him to periodically mend his budget.
 
He was a hard worker bestowed with the unique world outlook which - in spite of and thanks to - all sorts of situations shaped his own cinematic language and made his works readily recognizable after seeing just one shot. As for his stage productions, according to specialists they were mostly appreciated for their sturdiness, respect for dramaturgy and psychological depth of characterization. Still Bergman called theatre his “wife” while cinema was for him his “lover”. Bergman should know better, after shuffling wives and lovers in real life for many years. Getting to know his whimsical destiny one is tempted to suppose that the director almost intentionally imbued his life with mind-boggling plots and volcanic passions so that later he could load the screen with the shocking verisimilitude of the heavy, thick experience of Northern relationships.
 
He lived to work and work was his life. Tempestuous fallings-out and reconciliations with his parents, his loves and quarrels, countless romances and five marriages, poor health and erotic adventures producing nine children, for whom he longed but whom he could not stand for long periods. Following Bergman’s quirky life it is hard not to quote Dostoyevsky, who said that God and the devil fight in the human heart. Especially so that Bergman, who was born into the family of a protestant priest, was supposed to think about our Creator since childhood. But the more he realized the insolvability of the existential abyss, the more resolutely he pushed his characters to the brink of it, while they vainly demanded an answer from the silent God.
 
Behind the outward respectability of a protestant family he saw hidden relations between his parents, who tried to conquer their own inner devils all their lives. Love and hate were tightly intertwined in his mind since childhood. His ideological opposition to his parents was coupled with pathetic love for his father and overly ardent love for his sick and insecure mother. Nevertheless Bergman’s personal history seems to have gone counter to his parents and against all rules of a Christian family.
 
Bergman’s long life saw various historical developments and first of all the second world war. One must take into account that as a young man he was fascinated by Nazism, the feeling which was later replaced by the horror at its practices. Sweden’s neutrality resembled silent collaboration with Germany. At the time Stockholm was like a northern Casablanca with lots of refugees, itinerant peddlers, diplomats, agents and spies with one of whom Bergman dived into the abyss of erotic explorations, dumping his fiancée.
 
It is hard to identify the dark expressionism of Bergman’s films with the small thriving country as Sweden became known after the war. Rather it is the drab rented flats in Bohemian parts of Stockholm where Bergman as a young man used to live with his lovers, with only the cold water and convenience outside. With the atmosphere saturated with alcohol and drugs. With his favorite neighboring theatres and roadshows. With the dim projectors which struck his imagination as a boy… He opposed color in cinema for so long!
 
Bergman’s first movie “Crisis” appeared in 1945, then among his best works are “Summer Interlude” (1950), “Summer with Monika” (1952), “Sawdust and Tinsel” (1953), “The Seventh Seal” (1957) which was awarded the Special Jury Prize in Cannes and secured Bergman a place among the best film directors. Then came “Wild Strawberries” (1957) – Grand Prix in Berlin, “The Virgin Spring” (1961), “Winter Light” (1961), the controversial “The Silence” (1962), the most talked-about “Persona” (1967), “Shame” (1968), “Cries and Whispers” (1972), “Scenes from a Marriage” (1973), “The Magic Flute” (1973), “Autumn Sonata” (1977) and finally Berman’s most large-scale project “Fanny and Alexander” winning four Oscars!
 
Olga Surkova