between two handclaps
September 10, 2008, 1:52 am
Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: , , , ,

[cries and whispers – persona – bergman]

Here is Godard’s article on the filmmaker Bergman’s techniques, particularly his manipulation of time.  Bergman isolates moments in which his protagonists make significant decisions and then expands them to film length.  In his films, flashbacks begin and end at specific points that help to reveal the thinking of the hero.  In each case, time is expanded or collapsed to reveal the heart of a person.

Godard’s image of the space between two handclaps is beautiful!  Similarly compelling is Bergman’s insistence that we must leave time, at least our normative understanding of it, in order to see the turmoil in the minds of his characters.

Eternity at the Service of the Instantaneous
At the precise instant. Bergman, in effect, is the film-maker of the instant. Each of his films is born of the hero’s reflection on the present moment, and deepens that reflection by a sort of dislocation of time—rather in the manner of Proust but more powerfully, as though Proust were multiplied by both Joyce and Rousseau—to become a vast, limitless meditation upon the instantaneous. An Ingmar Bergman film is, if you like, one twenty-fourth of a second metamorphosed and expanded over an hour and a half. It is the world between two blinks of the eyelids, the sadness between two heart-beats, the gaiety between two handclaps.

Hence the prime importance of the flashback in these reveries of solitary Scandinavian wanderers. In Summer Interlude, a glance in her mirror is enough to send Maj-Britt Nilsson off like Orpheus and Lancelot in quest of paradise lost and time regained. Employed almost systematically by Bergman in most of his films, the flashback ceases to be what Orson Welles called one of those ‘poor tricks’ to become, if not the theme of the film, at least its sine qua non. In addition, this figure of style, even if employed as such, acquires the enormous advantage that it considerably enriches the scenario since it constitutes its internal rhythm and dramatic framework. One need only have seen any one of Bergman’s films to realize that each flashback invariably begins or ends in the right place; in two right places, I should say, because the remarkable thing is that, as with Hitchcock at his best, this sequence change always corresponds to the hero’s inner feeling, provoking in other words a renewal of the action – which is an attribute of the truly great. What one mistook for facility was simply a greater rigour. Ingmar Bergman, the intuitive artist decried by the ‘craftsmen’, here gives a lesson to the best of our scriptwriters. Not for the first time, as we shall see.

Bergmanorama, Jean Luc Godard


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