Sunday, 16 September 2018

Some brief thoughts on Ingmar Bergman, obsessions, and Nordic culture

Currently reading Masters of Cinema: Ingmar Bergman by Jacques Mandelbaum. 
This is an interesting passage: 
“… we cannot discuss the start of the aspiring filmmaker’s career without noting, alongside his personal experience, the importance of his environment and times, which profoundly influenced what he was and to some extent what he would become. Under this heading—a fertile source of banalities and generalities that are all the more wrong because the mark of great artists is precisely that they escape commonplaces—we should begin by noting that Bergman came from one of the Nordic countries. From the Lutheran rigour mentioned above to the extreme contrast between the seasons (melancholy, grey winters and sudden, intoxicating summers), and within social and political systems that mask a relatively low threshold of tolerance beneath an assertion of openness, Bergman is a natural product of his culture. The crucial play of light and shadow in his films and the gnawing sense of guilt that tortures the bodies and souls of his characters clearly reveal the importance of such tensions, which can be seen as crucial to the work of most of the great Scandinavian thinkers and artists, from the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard to his compatriot Carl Theodor Dreyer, and the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.” 
(It’s interesting that at this point Mandelbaum doesn’t mention August Strindberg, perhaps the singular most important influence on Bergman). 
Think about other Scandinavian directors: Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Roy Andersson, Joachim Trier (though I have to watch more). 
I do wonder if it’s because of my years in Norway that I feel close to Bergman and can feel his works a lot better than the works of other directors that I also admire immensely like Bunuel or Fellini. 
But it’s also personal. 
Let’s go back to the introduction in the book:
“… The physical and metaphysical context in which they are posed is provided by institutions (religion, family, art), obsessions (the couple, sex, death), motifs (mirrors, masks, doubles) and stylistic devices (close-ups, frontal views, enclosed spaces) throughout the fifty-odd films the director made between 1945 and 2003.” 
Some of these things I also share: obsession with sex, and death; love of the human face and therefore of close-ups; and fascination with mirrors, masks, and doubles (though admittedly the 2 short films I’ve directed have neither mirrors nor doubles). However, more important is my interest in people and relationships and the human psyche—the films that have the strongest impact on me are still the ones about people, with their complexities and contradictions and internal conflicts, and about feelings such as love, loss, longing, obsession, shame, guilt, despair, self-doubt, self-loathing, and so on. It is not without reason that sci-fi films never mean much to me, aliens and other planets don’t have my interest, nor does the general concept of humanity, as a whole; it’s people—the individual—that I care about. 
This looks like an interesting book.

1 comment:

  1. the first excerpt brought Ibsen to mind, as well as those artists that he mentioned... Ibsen's characters had many of the same personality traits that are referenced there... in general, i find it fascinating that people are driven to be certain ways, and that that warps them into shapes that are not foreseeable...