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august 2007

Ingmar Bergman

On July 30th, Ingmar Bergman died. He was the last of the great master filmmakers of the 20th century. None have emerged yet in this century. For lack of a better cliché, Bergman created literature on film, visual, audio, musical, spoken literature. His influence in perception and portrayal ranks with that of Picasso.

Two issues ago in Scene4, I wrote about Bergman's last work. It is seemingly apropos to publish it again.

Ingmar Bergman—His Theatre of Film

 Four years ago, the remaining master filmmaker of the 20th Century, Ingmar Bergman, released a made-for-television film, Saraband.  It was unanimously acclaimed and cited as the 'coda' work to his long, creative career. Today, in ill heath and 89 years old, it is apparently true.

 Saraband is a sequel of sorts to Bergman's 1973 Scenes From A Marriage-- it features the extraordinary actors, Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson, creating the same characters from the prior film. And it adds a marvelous performance by Börje Ahlstedt. In short, the acting is superb.

 The film has Bergman's characteristic master's editing style: in-camera, long takes, surprising jumps. It suffers because Bergman's long-time collaborator, the artist Sven Nykvist was no longer at his side creating the cinemaphotography, and shot for television on digital video all of the nuance and rich-color texture of film is missing. But Saraband has one treasure that these deficiencies cannot diminish. It has the writing—Bergman's writing.

 He was mentored by the great Swedish theatre and film director, Alf Sjöberg, who conquered the "flashback" barrier in 1951 in his classic, Miss Julie. Bergman wrote for Sjöberg, learned from him, and went on to create his masterpieces both on stage and in film. Above his brilliance as a theatre and film director is Bergman's writing. He is an incomparable playwright and screenwriter.

 Saraband is not a theatre piece adapted to cinema. It is a film—with a filmmaker's vision and rich visual skills. The gift it offers is a rare one today:  words, language that actors can dive into as if it were a pool of music. Show me a film among all of the shit that is produced in Hollywood and, frankly, the rest of the world. Only here and there—perhaps one by Carlos Saura, perhaps another by Alan Rudolph. We live in the age of Mamet and teen-marketing, where grunts and valley-speak tax film actors who have tiny voices and rarely have the skill to portray emotions and responses when the words are absent.

 At least we have the Kubricks, the Kurosawas, the Leans, the Fellinis and the Bergmans to calm the yearning and whisper hope for the future. 

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©2007 Arthur Meiselman
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the editor of Scene4.
He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
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Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

august 2007

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