Bergman in Text

I mentioned in the last post that I picked up a book from Ingmar Bergman: ‘Private Confessions at the Landmark sale. I recently finished reading it and absolutely loved it – even more than Svevo’s ‘Zeno’s Conscience’ which I was reading last week and had thoroughly enjoyed.

The book is roughly based on Bergman’s life – or rather his parents’ and their troubled relationship. It is a story of a married woman (Anna) who is having an extra-marital affair with a young man. It has been narrated through five conversations that Anna has with different people, in an effort to erase her guilt by explaining herself to these people. All these conversations, however, seem an attempt by Anna to convince herself that what she is doing is not wrong. The first three conversations are excellent – specially the one with her husband Henrik. Henrik’s reaction have been very realistically drawn by Bergman, beginning with numb silences and ending in angry accusations.

The book however becomes more of a story as it reaches into the fourth conversation, with the focus swept away from conversations into the actual relationship. In fact there is very little conversation in the fourth and fifth ‘confessions‘, something that I did not like about the book. Yet the shreds of conversation that do happen are very poignant and articulately express Anna’s guilt and her confusion.

It was amazing how everyone in the story, with the exception of Anna’s mother is able to understand her and be supportive in some way. Even Henrik, being a clergyman and the wronged husband! It seemed that even in a severe era of bigotry and sanctimony, people found space for compassion and understanding. However, even with the supportiveness, Anna was admonished by all in some way, ,most of all by herself and her lover, which was the most moving element of the book.

Bergman, as I suspected after watching his movies, was amazing at book writing. He has a particular sensitivity in his movie making, which seemed like an appropriate trait for writing. Of course the filmaker manifests itself in the writer, and so you can immediately see a lot of imagery and detail in the text. At times it almost appears like he is writing a screenplay, describing in detail the posture, the dress, the colors of the moment. He even describes scene cuts at sometimes: Anna on the road, Anna in the garden, Anna at the gate. And like his movies, Bergman is innovative in the way he tells his story.

Bergman & Allen

I cannot believe that Woody Allen is a fan of Ingmar Bergman or is influenced by him in any way. Whereas you hardly hear the spoken word in Bergman’s movies, talking and words are all that Allen uses in his films. Its like he cannot stop talking.
Strange influence this is!

Ingmar Bergman

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’ (Smultronst√§llet) 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.