What do you think of when you think of Woody Allen? Woody Allen or a Woody Allen character (lately played by Jesse Eisenberg). Lots of talk. Neurotic characters. Failed relationships. References to Russian literature, especially Crime and Punishment. Obsession with death. Jewishness. Ingmar Bergman allusions. Jazz.
Federico Fellini? Rome. Decadence. Parties. Sex, adultery. Large women. Magic. Hypnosis. Clowns. Circus. Dance. Nino Rota. Dreams/ fantasy. Religion. Swift camera movements. Rich images. Long sequences.
What about Ingmar Bergman? Loneliness. Anguish. Guilt. Hatred, mostly between family members. People’s coldness, selfishness and hypocrisy. Sickness. Death. The inner life, the soul. God’s indifference. A knight playing chess with Death. Relationships between men and women. Relationships between women. Close-ups of faces. Juxtaposed faces. Gloomy Swede.
With those preconceptions (I watched Autumn Sonata and The Silence and a bit of something a few years ago), I’ve been exploring Ingmar Bergman, because both he and Kieslowski focused on the characters’ inner lives.
Imagine the pleasant surprise when I watched Smiles of a Summer Night—a romantic comedy about mismatched couples and horny servants. Of course, when you know it’s by Ingmar Bergman and take a closer look, it’s him—the affairs, the hidden pain, the melancholy and feeling of emptiness. But it is very different. It is fun. It is hilarious. It is full of verbal wit, reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. It is a lovely lovely film.
This time, I’ve watched Cries and Whispers, Wild Strawberries, Summer with Monika, Smiles of a Summer Night and The Virgin Spring (in that order). Look forward to watching the heavier films.