Monday, July 30, 2007

The other day, i was rearranging my DVDs, because when i put them "in order" two years ago, there have been a lot of additions. When i first set out half a shelf for my "Scandinavian" DVDs, there were a few Bergman titles, a few Dreyer titles, Christensen's "Haxan", Gabriel Axel's "Babette's Feast".... since then, there have been things like the DVDs of Stiller's work put out by Kino ("Erotikon", "Sir Arne's Treasure" and "The Saga of Gosta Berling")... putting them all together, i found out that i had nineteen Ingmar Bergman titles. (Admittedly, i have four boxsets: the MGM boxset with "Persona", "Hour of the Wolf", "Shame", "The Passion of Anna" and "The Serpent's Egg"; the Criterion boxset of his "trilogy"; the boxset of "Fanny and Alexander"; and the Eclipse boxset of "Early Bergman" which also includes Alf Ajoberg's "Torment" with its Bergman script.) Bergman isn't one of my favorite directors; he isn't even one of my favorite Scandinavian directors (that would be Dreyer, Sjostrom, Stiller, Troell, Christensen, in that order). Yet there are a lot of titles which i have to admit are genuinely impressive and important works. Some of the Bergman titles of note: "Summer Interlude", "Summer With Monika", "Smiles of a Summer Night", "The Seventh Seal", "Wild Strawberries", "Through a Glass Darkly", "Winter Light", "The Silence", "Persona", "Shame", "A Passion", "The Magic Flute", "Fanny and Alexander".

But Ingmar Bergman is an acid test of the artistic fallacy: as a human being, he was one of the most miserable people who ever lived. Totally self-absorbed, utterly self-involved, and unconcerned about other people to a degree that is breathtaking! In that recent documentary "Faro Island", every time he opens his mouth, i wanted to knock his teeth out. An utterly detestable man. Some examples: he believes that in order to have a "relationship" with an actress (so that he can understand her "essence"), he has to sleep with her. There is a term for what Bergman has done (over decades) and that term is "sexual harrassment". Ingmar Bergman has gone on and on about how miserable his childhood was, how his father was distant and stern and forbidding... but the fact that he has been an utterly neglectful and distant father himself, his attitude is, why should it bother him? He has no responsibility for his children!

In short: the man is an utter monster, and (really) there's no excuse for his behavior. None at all. And it's a joke: he's an even worse father (and he admits it; that's also supposed to be cute, that he's so "honest") than his own father ever was, but his excuse is that he's a genius. Yet Bergman has no irony (which is one of his most interesting traits: he's one of the only major artists of the second half of the 20th Century, the "Age of Irony" if ever there was one, who is utterly, dogmatically "serious" in a lugubrious, torpid way).

Yet the intensity of his work, at its best ("Persona", "Shame", "A Passion"), is quite unique.


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