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Ingmar Bergman

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charliechaplinfan
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Ingmar Bergman

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 23rd, 2010, 8:32 am

For a devotee of World cinema I've seen precious little of Ingmar Bergman's films despite many of them being available, I can't remember us ever discussing him as a director. I always find other people opinions interesting when trying to come to terms with my own opinions of a directors work. Before yesterday I'd seen Wild Strawberries which I liked a great deal and Smiles on a Summer Night which I found entertaining.

I'll kick off this thread with Cries and Whispers. I was captured from the start from the film, I had no preconceptions although I know now there might be one or two scenes that are famous. The photography was the first thing that hit me from a panaramic shot of the grounds of a grand house to the colours inside, red on all the walls and the girl, two sisters of a dying woman and her servant all in white and in one case an outfit that looked almost bridal. FRom the scenery I would guess the time the drama took place to be around the turn of the 20th century. The suffering is made apparent from the first as Agnes played by Harriet Anderson wakes up from sleep to be creased in pain, one sister Maria, Liv Ullman is sleeping on a chair in an ajoining room having looked after hersister through the night. Agnes starts to write her diary telling us something of the family. It's soon revealed that Maria is some what flighty and sensuous whereas the other sister Karin, seemingly more sensible than Maria is afraid of touch and is in a loveless marriage. The maid Anna is devoted to Agnes and is the only one able to offer her physical comfort to soothe her suffering. A little puzzling here, I don't think Bergman is making anything sexual out of their relationship but I might be wrong, I read it as two very close and intimate friends.
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Re: Ingmar Bergam

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 23rd, 2010, 8:40 am

Agnes is dying from cancer, she doesn't slip away, she suffers but at no time do you feel like Bergman should spare her, her death is felt as a release from this life. After her death the remaining sisters try to get close, Maria tries to break through Karin's barriers, barriers we see flashbacks about but I didn't totally understand. There is one sequence which I felt the film didn't need of Karin harming herself with a piece of glass in an intimate place, it's a little too graphic for my tastes. The sisters fail to completely break through each others barriers. Anna the maid faithful at last to her mistress, holds her throughout the night after she has died, I'm presuming that this is a vision, a comfort for the maid who has lost her young child previously. Anna is dismissed from service by the sister's husbands. The last glimpse of film we get is back towhen the sisters came to stay and Agnes was able to join them for a walk.

It's a compelling film, if only for the colours and standard of the acting. I found it strange that the normally blonde actresses had their hair dyed for the part, perhaps Bergman wanted to seperate them from previous roles. All the actresses are wonderful in their roles, one wonders if Bergam wrote specifically with them in mind.

I feel after having viewed it that I should go back and watch again more closely as I did with Wild Strawberries, I'm sure it is a many layered film.
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phil noir
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby phil noir » June 23rd, 2010, 1:45 pm

Well, coincidentally, Ingmar Bergman is someone I've recently started feeling I should investigate. The only film of his I've so far seen is the one you've written about here, Alison, which I watched a couple of months ago. Sometimes I watch a film, and I don't really know what I think about it. I found Cries and Whispers beautiful and mystifying, but I don't know what else to say about it! It certainly isn't a work - in my experience, anyway - which lends itself to easy comprehension.

The scene I liked best was the final one where the sisters - before Agnes was bedridden - and their maid walk through the garden in the summer. I liked the way that Bergman was able to provide some measure of consolation by disrupting the chronology. Although Agnes has died in great pain, here is a time, he seems to be saying, when they were all happy and it was a beautiful day and there was pleasure in being alive; and that occasion cannot be destroyed by whatever happened later, no matter how terrible it was.

If you can get Film4, Through A Glass Darkly is on in the early hours tomorrow morning at 1:25 a.m. (Thursday 24th). Unless it slips my mind, I'm planning to record it and see what I think of that one.

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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 23rd, 2010, 3:21 pm

I agree with you about the end scene of Cries and Whispers, they all look so happy and so elegant. I can't help thinking that the colours Bergman chose are meant to sway our feelings for the girls and the surroundings. The red made the house feel like it had it's own power, apparently Bergman said it was the colour he thought of a person's soul.

I felt like I should have been paying more attention in the earlier scenes, even though I was giving the film my undivided attention at the time but I'm sure I've missed some of the nuances Bergman intended us to pick up on.

I hadn't any preconceptions about Cries and Whispers, there was just the one scene I thought was graphic and unnecessary, I wonder what his thoughts were to put such a scene in a film than in all other resepcts is a work of art.

This afternoon I watched The Virgin Spring, again without any knowledge about his movies. This has Max Von Sydow, someone I feel has a powerful screen presence. This film was set in medieval times, the picture begins in a farmer's house with 2 stepsisters, one pregnant and a disgrace to her family and the other virginal and the favorite and only living child of her mother. Karin, the virginal child is sent to take candles to church for Our Lady, the journey is a long one which she undertakes with her stepsister. Along the way the the stepsister takes shelter but invokes a gypsy curse, the virginal sister is persuaded to stop by some starving goatherders, she shares her food with them and niavely talks about her home making it sound far grander than it is. The herders rape her and then kill her, all this is seen by her stepsister. In a twist of fate the goatherders stop for the night at the dead girls parents home, giving their crime away by offering Karin's clothes for sale. As her father Max Von Sydow prepares for revenge in some very impressive scenes, the revenge is not sweet but still impressive. As the parents recover the dead girls' body the film's name becomes apparent. A second Bergman film I've enjoyed in quick succession.

I'll try and get Through a Glass Darkly.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby MichiganJ » June 23rd, 2010, 4:28 pm

Cries and Whispers is one of my (many) favorite Bergman films.
I don't have a lot of time right now but a three-word review would be:

uncompromising;
dream state;
red


(Okay, four words.)

Kudos for jumping right into the deep end of the Bergman filmography. I might suggest, however, that Bergman reveals himself best when seeing his films more-or-less in order of production. Although jumping around has its merits, too.

CCF: That specific scene in Cries is shocking and very difficult, but, I think, also absolutely necessary. Karin hates herself (she talks of having tried to kill herself if I remember correctly), and she really hates her husband. Yet what Karin really wants is human contact, but still avoids being touched. The dinner scene and her fantasy mutilation (I never see it as a reality) further defines her character. (And gives another, rather explicit use of the color red in one of Bergman's relatively few color films.)

Yikes, just saw The Virgin Spring is up for discussion, too. Another great, but sometimes disturbing film.
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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby Mr. Arkadin » June 23rd, 2010, 6:32 pm

Bergman is one of my favorite directors, but unfortunately, I'm at a stage in my life right now where I have little time to write, so I'll try and drop in thoughts when I can. My personal favorite is The Passion of Anna (1970).

Cries and Whispers is a devastating and uplifting work where we recognize life as a precious and finite gift--one that many fritter away with disharmony and anger instead of making the most of what we have been given. This is shown right from the beginning of the film where Agnes sets the stopped clock in motion, indicating while time is running out for her physically (the ticks remind us of heartbeats) she will not shrink from death, but embrace it.

Image

The Virgin Spring is another very interesting film that some people have compared with the exploitation/horror flick The Last House From the Left (1972). Both films deal with fathers seeking vengeance, but Bergman's film questions the idea of justice in a fallen world, whereas Craven's movie seems more intent on the twisted nature of the criminals and how it transfers itself to the grieving parents in a case of evil begetting evil.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby ChiO » June 23rd, 2010, 7:24 pm

Ooohhh, CCF, now you're going to make me diverge from my Ophuls and Resnais kick and pop in my Bergman movies to get reacquainted. I guess there are worse fates.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby Synnove » June 23rd, 2010, 7:40 pm

I’m also working myself forward with the Bergman films. For me it was a style I had to familiarize myself with. The first Bergman movie I watched was The Seventh Seal, and it was exactly what I expected it to be, because I already had prejudice about Bergman. But I was intrigued by it, so I watched it again a while later. Wild Strawberries is my favourite of his films, and I also have a fondness for Fanny and Alexander. The Summer with Monica is the best of the early movies he made but it's really different in tone from the movies he's the most famous for, its script wasn't written by him. I also really like Harbour City from 1948. It's a hidden gem that's similar to a Hollywood precode.

I got to see The Virgin Spring last year. My dad and I sometimes go to a Bergman festival they hold every year at the island where he used to live, and we went to a showing of The Virgin Spring. It’s not a movie you want to see with your dad, but I found it very interesting. It seems quite faithful to the spirit of the ballads it was based on, and I found myself wondering afterwards what prompted him to want to film it in the first place – I don’t mean that as criticism, but I would love to know the background on this. Btw, I believe The House on the Left is supposed to be based on The Virgin Spring. That’s a movie I’m never going to bring myself to watch. I’m probably not going to watch The Virgin Spring again either. There are some things I just have a strong aversion against watching.

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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby Mr. Arkadin » June 23rd, 2010, 7:48 pm

Summer with Monika is a great film, but I have not been able to find a quality DVD release. Is one out there?

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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby MichiganJ » June 24th, 2010, 8:28 am

Mr. Arkadin wrote:Summer with Monika is a great film, but I have not been able to find a quality DVD release. Is one out there?

I have the Palisades Tartan edition and would recommend it. It is All Region PAL, so you'll need a region-free DVD player (or play it on your computer.)

Palisades Tartan has a lot of the Bergman titles that have not yet been released Region 1.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby ChiO » June 24th, 2010, 12:32 pm

Summer with Monika is a great film, but I have not been able to find a quality DVD release.


(Advance apology for slight detour -- without Tom Neal.)

If I am correctly recalling one of the stories told by master huckster and sexploitationist (and former craps operator in Phenix City and producer of several Herschell Gordon Lewis movies) David Friedman, he met with Bergman's people about being the first U.S. distributor of a Bergman movie. Bergman's people discussed the artistry of the director; Friedman was interested because of topless scenes. A deal was cut and SUMMER WITH MONIKA became the first Bergman film to play around the U.S....in what were then known as "art house" (aka "adult") theaters. If not quite a true story, then it should be.

Now back to Ingmar and the adventures of Bibi, Liv, and Max.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby MichiganJ » June 24th, 2010, 12:52 pm

ChiO wrote:If I am correctly recalling one of the stories told by master huckster and sexploitationist (and former craps operator in Phenix City and producer of several Herschell Gordon Lewis movies) David Friedman, he met with Bergman's people about being the first U.S. distributor of a Bergman movie. Bergman's people discussed the artistry of the director; Friedman was interested because of topless scenes. A deal was cut and SUMMER WITH MONIKA became the first Bergman film to play around the U.S....in what were then known as "art house" (aka "adult") theaters. If not quite a true story, then it should be.


It was and English dubbed 62-minute drive-in version called Monika, The Story of a Bad Girl with a jazz score from Lex Baxter.
ChiO wrote:Now back to Ingmar and the adventures of Bibi, Liv, and Max.

Don't forget Gunnar.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 24th, 2010, 2:13 pm

I'm going to sound hard but I didn't find The Virgin Spring difficult to watch, maybe it's because it was set in a time so long ago or that I simply felt that I was watching a story, it has some shocking scenes and I did feel for Karin but I felt the story was trying to say something greater, about vengence and supposed wealth. Is it because she pretends to be rich that they assault her so, or is it for her riches that they kill her. Where does the toad come into it? Do they think she is some kind of witch and the toad is a sign? When I first watched the toad scene I thought they would back down because they thought she was a witch and they'd be cursed if they commited any crime against her.

What of the stepsister, I can accept the jealousy but even so in times of extreme danger you'd think family toes would be thicker than water, even if one sister is the black sheep and the other the virginal lamb. Also who's child is Ingerind? She's not the mother's, is she the father's, he seems more sympathetic toward her.

The scene with the birching, is that symbolic or does it just look good on film? Is he purging himself of his sins before he can take vengence? He's very calculated too, most people faced by news like that would commit the act of revenge straight away but he's so calm, so too is his wife. He kills them all, the boy illiciting more sympathy from me that Karin herself, I'm sure that boy had known no happiness. After the death of the boy revenge is no longer sweet, revenge doesn't make him feel any better.
I liked the ending, it lifted the film up, I was surprised to find such an ending in a Bergman film but it felt very right to me.
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 24th, 2010, 2:20 pm

Re Cries and Whispers, I don't think Karin actually did that to herself either, I thought it was imaginary. Is it her loveless marriage that makes her yearn for human touch and reject it simultaneously. It's a pity for her that she opens up only to find that Maria has become flighty again. I liked Karin much more than Maria despite her imagination. I think she was a better person. At no time did I feel that it was a shame that Agnes dies. I think Bergman is truthful in his portrayal of Agnes death, I suffered the death of someone close who was young like Karin and the pain becomes unbearable, maybe it just resonates with me but I like the way he deals with death and the life beyond.

As for my Bergman viewing, I was just in the mood for something different and challenging, I never thought about what to go for first although I can see the sense in viewing them in order. I watched The Seventh Seal a while ago but don't think I got the right feel for it, no doubt I'll revisit it soon.

I'm glad to see there are members here acquainted with Bergman, he's a director that needs discussion amongst friends.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Synnove
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Re: Ingmar Bergman

Postby Synnove » June 24th, 2010, 4:14 pm

MichiganJ wrote:
ChiO wrote:If I am correctly recalling one of the stories told by master huckster and sexploitationist (and former craps operator in Phenix City and producer of several Herschell Gordon Lewis movies) David Friedman, he met with Bergman's people about being the first U.S. distributor of a Bergman movie. Bergman's people discussed the artistry of the director; Friedman was interested because of topless scenes. A deal was cut and SUMMER WITH MONIKA became the first Bergman film to play around the U.S....in what were then known as "art house" (aka "adult") theaters. If not quite a true story, then it should be.


It was and English dubbed 62-minute drive-in version called Monika, The Story of a Bad Girl with a jazz score from Lex Baxter.
ChiO wrote:Now back to Ingmar and the adventures of Bibi, Liv, and Max.

Don't forget Gunnar.


And Harriet, she's one of my favourites!

I think The Virgin Spring was just doubly disturbing to me because I viewed it on a very big screen. That just brought it too close.

The Summer with Monica was considered shocking in its day. What's more striking about it now to me is how natural it feels, like they really are spending weeks on a boat together far from civilization, and eventually being forced to steal food. The depictions of town life are also pretty harrowing. It's an unusually realistic Bergman film. Harbour City could give it a run for its money though, if it had got a wider release abroad it would have caused far more shock than Monica.


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