Published at: July 30, 2007, 4:49 a.m. CST by Moriarty
When I posted this news in our chat room a few moments ago, everyone in the room copped to having never seen any of the remarkable films created by the incomparable Ingmar Bergman. I’m saddened by that, but not shocked. He was a filmmaker of a different age, the manufacturer of a more elegant style of cinema than many of today’s younger film fans are able to enjoy. I hope that, if anything, the news of his passing leads some to at least sample the amazing filmography he left behind. I’m going to be on a plane for twelve hours today, and I plan to take along FANNY & ALEXANDER so I can spend at least part of that flight reminding myself of just how deep and how rich film can truly be.
Including his TV work, Bergman directed over 60 films, and it would be hard to name a more profound body of work from any director in any culture. Maybe it was because he was the son of a priest that he spent so much of his career wrestling with the existential. He dealt with his childhood in much of his work, and it was the everyday that gave him most of his subject matter. He worked in theater, on TV, and then eventually in film. He brought a literate approach to his films, but he was also supremely cinematic. He crafted beautiful imagery to match the depth of his writing, and that combination of skills is what makes him one of the giants.
FANNY AND ALEXANDER. AUTUMN SONATA. FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARIONETTES. THE SERPENT’S EGG. FACE TO FACE. SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. CRIES AND WHISPERS. WILD STRAWBERRIES. HOUR OF THE WOLF. PERSONA. THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY. THE VIRGIN SPRING. THE SEVENTH SEAL. SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT. Any one of these films would mark a director as a significant contributor to cinema, but when you consider all of them as a piece, as one man’s statement, it is a staggering accomplishment. Just thinking about the images and ideas his films added to my own understanding and appreciation of the art form, I am overcome.
I could write a dozen pages in appreciation of this giant, but as with many of the truly essential filmmakers, the only fitting tribute to his work is to watch it. There are fantastic Criterion editions of many of his films, and you should track one down today, especially if it’s one you haven’t seen before.
And I just hope that wherever Bergman is today, he can still laugh about this exchange from FANNY & ALEXANDER:
“If there is a God, he’s a shit, and I’d like to kick him in the butt.”
“Your theory is very interesting... and it appears to be justified.”
Our thoughts are with his family and his friends and his fans around the world.