Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I’m not as versed in Bergman as I should be. Maybe his death will give me a chance to visit his work some more.

THREE STRANGE LOVES (1949) –You wouldn’t figure it for a Bergman film, but the love –triangle subject matter was treated in a much more European manner although I remember the interiors and cinematography seemed like a 1940s Hollywood. It just happened to be one of the few Bergman movies the Pensacola library owned and it’s overall mediocrity kept me from trying other lessor known films like THE MAGICIAN.

– This was my first Bergman film. I couldn’t figure out how a man’s travel with his daughter-in-law could make for a classic film, but I gave it a run. It turned out to be a great introduction to Bergman, because his approach to material is usually superior to the plot itself. It had a funny effect on me at the time. I liked it a great deal and I wanted to watch it again soon after. I decided that I watch some of his other films first, but his best films were unavailable in Pensacola. I’ve slowly watched a few here or there on Netflix, but I have a way to go. I would still consider it to be my favorite of his movies.

–It’s hard to set a film in the middle ages and make it work. I can hardly think of another off hand. Bergman not only captures small villages and great areas of desolation, but intertwines the black death quite well too. This was the first one I saw on Netflix and it’s understandable why it’s his most iconic. Death as a character could be quite hokey in the wrong hands, but Bergman makes it believable and haunting and compelling.

– After THREE STRANGE LOVES I thought I would check out something more well known and Cries and Whispers was nominated for Best Picture and Director. A movie full of death and near death and pain and remorse can get to you. I think I gave up on it after 45 minutes. It did more than anything else to quell my Bergman appetite for a while.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982) – This is the one I’ve seen most recently. Although 3 hours long, the story arc and tertiary characters work well enough that it didn’t seem overlong. I understand he did a 4 hour version for Swedish TV. It also helped me to understand why critics point to certain Woody Allen traits and call the Bergmanesque. Woody’s scene at the end of Match Point where the Tennis Player talks to the deceased is a clear homage to Bergman and one that I would have missed without watching this film. Although it's longer than most of his work, it's also less dark than the others I have seen.


Dude said...

Fanny and Alexander is also the one I've seen most recently. I watched it on my laptop last year in my hotel in Nice.

Weren't you in that UWF class with me where we watched Persona? There was an incredible image in that film with the two ladies in bed with the one in foreground laying supine and the one in background looking toward the camera, superimposing the two faces to look like one. I've always remembered that image, especially since the story was about the two women trading personalities. Lynch paid homage in Mulholland Drive.

Tom said...

I wasn't in that class, but I remember you downloading it to me within a few days. I remember you had a certain amount of respect for it and yet your immediate reaction wasn't love. How do you reflect on it now this many years later?

Dude said...

I haven't seen as many as you - in fact, I guess I've only seen three: the two I mentioned plus Seventh Seal. I don't rank any of them among my personal favorites, though most scholarly types rank all three among the greatest films of all time. I came away with some lasting images and some extended moments but, unlike Woody, I would rather watch Terminator 2 than Cries and Whispers.

I can respect that Bergman did for cinema what Dylan did for rock music, and I can't diss either fella, but despite the genius of his work, Dylan is not my favorite either. There are still a few films I'd like to see and they are already in my Netflix queue but I've got plenty of time and lucky for me, those films are timeless.

Tom said...

I think that's a good way to put it. I watch foreign films because I know I will be surprised once in a while with something really impressive, but I usually settle for enjoying something unusual.

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