I had not heard the name Bergman three months ago. And just when I did and was planning to watch one of his movies, the esteemed director passed away. It was only then that I realized the extent of devotion Bergman inspired in movie fans. He overwhelmingly featured in most blogs that I read, in television channels (even DD!) in print, in websites. And I was amazed at just how much I had missed. But then, I suppose I can blame it on my relatively fresh induction into cinema.
Anyways, I finally did watch a couple of movies by him – ‘Wild Strawberries’ (Smultronstället) and ‘Persona‘ and though I liked and enjoyed the first, I am unable to fathom what is the fuss all about.
Wild Strawberries was no doubt a very interesting movie – through dreams, memories imagination and experiences, Bergman depicted the feelings of a man facing a close death – his fears, remorses, regrets. With brilliant imagery, Bergman has highlighted the personal failure of this man in the background of his professional superiority – as the nightmares and memories haunt him while on the way to recieving an award for professional achievement. Though the tussle of personal lives and careers has been depicted many times, I suppose this one was very poetic and imaginative.
However, I was quite disappointed in ‘Persona’ – it has been labeled as Bergman’s masterpeice, even in his own admissions. Not only did the film lack in imagery (though with some good cinematography once in a while), I could not find any interesing theme in it except for the interspersion of the two characters. The movie is about an actress who is struck speechless during one of her performances and never speaks after that, and a nurse who tries to care of her. The relationship between these two is tensed and is never really clear except that one can all the time feel a character exchange coming, and when it does come, it is almost anti-climatic. While watching the movie, I was strongly reminded of Mullholland Drive, perhaps because both focus on the interaction between two women in slightly unusual circumstances.
In both the films, a common hand was quite traceable – Bergman has extensively used sharp sounds and memories in both. I can see why is he respected so much, but from the limited exposure, I thought I would have savored both themes better in a book rather than a movie. Perhaps he tries to write on screen, which is a novel concept, but the complex web of thoughts is often best depicted in words. Silence can speak but it often becomes boring.