Monday, July 30, 2007

The famous film director Ingmar Bergman (July 14, 1918 - July 30, 2007) died today. Bergmann was born in Uppsala Sweden, and his father was a Lutheran minister of Danish descent and of rather strict views, Erik Bergman, who later became the chaplain to the King of Sweden. The darkness of Bergman's early life resonated through Ingmar's later work. The themes of death/mortality, sex and sexual politics, guilt, faith or the lack thereof and loneliness echoed through the director's later films and plays. Bergman's first film was 'Frenzy' (1944), and his ouevre spanned many decades. Two good sources for a cinematography are and . The latter allows you to purchase many of his films. The former contains an excellent biography that supplements the Wikipedia site on him.
Bergman was as prolific with his DNA as he was with his writings. He was married five times, and he acknowledged 9 children as his own. All of them with the exception of one author and one airline pilot became involved with film. He had a favourite repertoire of actors that he hoped to include in his films, and he was more than slightly lax with them, allowing them to improvise and change the tone of many of his films. One of these actors, Liv Ullman, became one of his mistresses, and she and he had a daughter that he also acknowledged as his own.
Those interested in the sort of "lit-crit" that professors of fine arts do can slake their thirst at or . Bergman spent more than one stint in nutters in his life. One of these little "rest cures" happened after he was arrested in 1976 and charged with income tax evasion. The charges were later dropped, but the result was that he left Sweden for exile in Munich and only returned in 1982. I gotta say that his attraction to craziness didn't interfere with his "procreation duties" as can be seen by his progeny. One has to appreciate, however, that Bergman was both rich and lived at a time when the so-called "helping" professions were far less developed in the industrial power that they have today. Nowadays few except that who accept the position of the factory material of permanent marginals who earn their keepers large salaries can escape interference with their sex and family lives. Different times. Different places. Today you have to accept the position of "welfare bum"-with all that implies for your life- to breed like a rabbit.
My own favourite films of Bergman were 'Scenes from a Marriage', 'Fanny and Alexander' and, of course, 'The Seventh Seal'. Not being a film nut/nit I'm sure that those more knowledgeable that I could argue with my choices. One hardly hears today about existentialism and its themes. To a large extent this is because we live in a time without real faith when attempts at such partake more of hysteria than real conviction. The "faith" of the American evangelists is as much a cartoon faith as my own pen name of Mollymew is a cartoon. I wonder if the faith of Islamic fundamentalists seems the same to many Muslims. Je ne sais pas. The existentialists lived in a time when they actually mourned the death of a real and present God and the meaning that he imparted. Today we see this God as a fading photograph in an old family picture. Both fascism and Marxist communism failed dramatically as substitutes.
Much has been lost since that time. Very few people today actually bother to confront the real meaning of death, for instance, when there is no certainty of a meaning to it or a life thereafter. When they cling to the modern cartoon versions of "certainty" they lose something that traditional Christian (and Muslim for that matter) culture preserved from the Greeks. They lose the comedic aspect of life. They simply can't get the joke. They also lose the tragic aspect. One can see this very starkly in the conservative ideology rampant in the USA where "tragedy" is invoked to justify injustice but the whole idea of Nemesis and the punishment for over weaning pride is absent. Leftism, of course, shares similar blindness, but the contrast is hardly as visible as it is when you read conservative commentators.
What exactly has been lost here ? Read the nonsense spewed out by Islamic fascists. Read the same sort of thing produced by the present American or Canadian government and their supporters. Read pretty well anything produced by neo-conservatives. Read most of what is produced under the heading of "leftism". Read the more rhetorical anarchism statements. What is missing ? The whole idea that life is complex and has depth. Yes, I miss the existentialists greatly. I'll also miss old Ingmar. He should never have confessed his chess strategy to Death disguised as a priest.
Molly on Dover Beach

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