what happens when the one who dreamt us wakes up and feels ashamed?
September 27, 2010, 10:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,


I found a copy of Bergman’s The Shame and watched it last night.  And of course highly recommend it.  It’s about a couple who are artists and trying to avoid a war but it eventually comes to them and changes their lives.  I’ve rarely watched a film that so convincingly and relentlessly takes you right to the human heart.  And on the surface it’s just people moving around and talking while bombs go off in the background.

The Von Sydow character Jan is one of the weakest male characters in film, and makes you think the Ullmann character Eva is strong.  She is.  He feels everything and reacts by retreating; she feels deeply too but is more reactive.   He talks about the past and music, she about bringing a child into this uncertain world.

The action is picaresque, event to image to action to event, and the feeling is despairing that our lives in war are completely manipulated by forces we can’t see or know and then the violence arrives at the door.  The hinge is Eva’s dream:

Eva: Sometimes everything seems just like a dream. It’s not my dream, but someone else’s, that I have to participate in. What happens when the one who dreamt us wakes up and feels ashamed?

An existential question for our times – what happens when?  There’s her strength, she knows someone will wake up and that there will be shame.

I like this website, Ingmar Bergman Face to Face.

the joy in me

I was nine when Ingmar Bergman made Scenes From a Marriage / Scener ur ett Aktenskap with Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, about the disintegration of a marriage.  I finally got around to seeing it now.

Bergman’s father was a Lutheran pastor.  In the interview with him on the dvd, he describes the de-Christianizing of Sweden, in which the new generation kept the outward signs of their faith – the courtesies, legalisms, forms, and got rid of the love.  This story is about a young couple – Marianne and Johan – who live in the illusion of their happiness which is based on these outward signs.  They have good jobs, young daughters, family obligations and connections.  And eventually, by the catalyst of an affair, they are forced to confront their relationship on a much deeper level.  Marianne is much more successful than Johan in this hard work, the work of knowing herself.  She uses a journal to do the hard work which she reads to Johan, and he utterly fails her here by falling asleep during the reading.

In her journal she describes a violence that is the real root of her proper, happy, bourgeois life.  And that the formal exterior is really a means of keeping that violence at bay.  And that families teach their children from a very young age to conform and repress their personality and emotions in the interests of conforming to the requirements of proper society.  She describes the guilt that acts as a poison that takes her over completely, and makes it hard to live a full life later as an adult.

Bergman describes how his film led to a spike in divorces as more Swedes decided to challenge their repressed relations.  Irony that the son of a pastor sees divorce as good: a reckoning of people to their own true selves and to what it means to truly love.

Marianne reading from her diary about self awareness:

Marianne:  In the snug world Johan and I lived in, taking everything for granted, there is an implied cruelty and brutality that frightens me more and more when I think back on it.  The trappings of security come at a high price:  the constant erosion of your personality.  It’s so easy right at the outset to thwart a small child’s cautious attempts to assert itself.  In my case, it was performed with injections of a poison that is 100% effective.  Guilt.  At first, it was directed towards my mother.  Later, towards others.  And finally, towards Jesus and God.  In a flash I see what kind of person I would have been had I never allowed myself to be brainwashed.  And I wonder whether I’m hopelessly lost.   Whether the potential for joy that was innate in me is dead, or whether it merely lies dormant and can be awakened.  I wonder what kind of wife and woman I would have become if I’d been able to use my resources as they were intended.

Ingmar Bergman Scenes From a Marriage, 1973

into the arms of the priests
September 3, 2009, 12:33 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here is a bit of dialogue from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal in which Jons, the Knight’s squire asks a fresco painter in a church about his painting of death and the plague.

The Seventh Seal is about a Knight who is returning to his castle after spending time fighting in the Crusades.  He is devout, preoccupied, a believer.  His squire Jons is a much better source if you like your information straight up, as we see in this scene.

The Painter knows who butters his bread and is the conduit for a culture of fear used by a priesthood to control their people.  Of course, he won’t admit it, but the insightful Squire has no problem labeling the art as propaganda.

JONS:  What is this supposed to represent?

PAINTER:  The Dance of Death.

JONS:  And that one is Death?

PAINTER:  Yes, he dances off with all of them.

JONS:  Why do you paint such nonsense?

PAINTER:  I thought it would serve to remind people that they must die.

JONS:  Well, it’s not going to make them feel any happier.

PAINTER:  Why should one always make people happy?  It might not be a bad idea to scare them a little once in a while.

JONS:  Then they’ll close their eyes and refuse to look at your painting.

PAINTER:  Oh, they’ll look.  A skull is almost more interesting than a naked woman.

JONS:  If you do scare them …

PAINTER:  They’ll think.

JONS:  And if they think …

PAINTER:  They’ll become still more scared.

JONS:  And then they’ll run right into the arms of the priests.

PAINTER:  That’s not my business.

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