Tuesday, July 31, 2007

a magician of dark and light

July 14, 1918 - July 30, 2007

Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.
-Ingmar Bergman

I watched my first bergman film in 1972, I was seventeen years old. the film was ‘the seventh seal’ - I can honestly say I was never the same after that. I went to see the film with barbara, a friend who I knew through work. she was a few years older than I, already out of high school and living on her own. although I haven't seen barbara since 1973 when I graduated from high school and left my job to go off to college, barbara will forever hold a special place in my heart as she was the person who took me to see my first bergman film. I was hooked on bergman’s oeuvre the minute I saw the stark visual beauty of that first film and 'met' max von sydow. in 'the seventh seal' von sydow played the tormented knight who returns home after the crusades to find his home ravaged by the plague and death wanting and waiting for him. like many seventeen year olds I was in the midst of quite a few of my own existential crises – bergman and max (who I instantly fell in love with and became my ideal of masculine sexuality) stuck chords deep inside my soul. barbara and I went back to watch ‘the seventh seal’ three times – at each viewing we would find more and more layers to the film.

a few months later we found ourselves in nirvana when the theater held a month-long bergman festival. over the course of a month barbara and I went to see every film we could. this was no small feat given my age and circumstances. money was scarce and the theater was located in northwest Washington DC a bit of a schlep from my cozy suburban Virginia home. I have no idea how I convinced my folks that heading to DC to watch bergman films was a sensible thing to do on school nights but somehow I managed.

it’s been a number of years since I’ve watched a bergman film. but since those days where I spent many hours in the dark under his spell, bergman has been my celluloid Gandalf. as a director bergman's wizardry unveils aspects of the human condition like none other. although I can't remember the plot-nuances of all the bergman films I've seen, they are forever etched in my memory whereas even the title emits a special kind of power ... 'wild strawberries,' 'the virgin spring,' 'cries and whispers,' 'persona,' 'the passion of anna,' 'through a glass darkly,' 'face to face,' 'fanny and alexandra'.......


L.M.Noonan said...

I was sad to hear of his passing too. I used to do film studies at art school and so naturally we watched most of his films which I thought were marvellous. I love how you described him as your 'celluloid Gandalf'. My film buff son will love that. I imagine him living in seclusion on that faro island...sort of waiting for the inevitable. Still it was a good long life.

Dumdad said...

"My celluloid Gandalf." I like that.
Damn, I've just read the comment above and she picks out this phrase.
Anyway, it's a fascinating, personal tribute.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

thanks for the comments! :)