An ecocritical examination of the birds of Bergman
Linda Haverty Rugg
This chapter explores how Ingmar Bergman’s films reflect on the non-human environment through the frequent and striking representation of birdsong. Birdsong in Bergman’s films illustrates what Timothy Morton, in Ecology without Nature (2007), describes as a ‘poetics of ambience’, which indicates that ‘ambience’ in art is not truly ambient, but constructed. Thus, this chapter shows how particular birds are chosen for specific effect in Bergman’s film narratives. Both folkloric beliefs about birds and their song and psychological responses to birdsong find expression in many of Bergman’s films, and a hint of horror enters with the creation of the demonic ‘birdman’ in Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf, 1968). In that film the ‘birdman’ is, oddly enough, linked to the comic figure of Papageno the bird-catcher from The Magic Flute. Another association with Papageno comes up with Bergman’s repeated use of the surname Vogler (bird-catcher) for figures in his films, and those Voglers, like the birdman, tend toward the demonic. The conclusion is that Bergman’s use of birds and birdsong as prophecies of death, as demonic, or as indifferent to human fate, could be said to reflect what Morton calls ‘dark ecology’, a queer representation of both beauty and terror, an expression of the desire to stay with a dying world.
This chapter identifies three rival interpretations of Autumn Sonata. A first reading describes a work that, like Face to Face, was conceived along Janovian lines, and that consequently resonates positively with the tenets of Janov’s psychology. The second and third interpretations both deny that Autumn Sonata is consistently Janovian. According to one kind of ‘non-Janovian’ interpretation, Bergman worked with significant Janovian premises as he conceived of the story and characterizations for Autumn Sonata, yet for various reasons, the director did not, finally, go on to make a thoroughly Janovian work. An alternative interpretation contends that Bergman had taken some critical distance from at least some of the main tenets of Janov’s psychological theory and successfully expressed these reservations in his film. In other words, Bergman was not thoroughly or consistently persuaded of the truth of Janov’s theoretical contentions, either at the time of his initial, enthusiastic reading of The Primal Screen or upon subsequent reflection. On the basis of an examination of the relevant evidence, the chapter argues that although Bergman undeniably sought to bring out a story along Janovian lines, he ended up with one that instructively manifests ways in which that doctrine is incomplete and problematic.
Munich–Rome–Los Angeles, or ‘The last temptation of Ingmar Bergman’
This chapter deals with Bergman’s close contacts with transnational film producer Dino de Laurentiis, working out of Rome, and with legendary Hollywood talent agent Paul Kohner. Bergman discussed potential film projects with both of them over the years, and their correspondence is traced in detail here. Bergman was contacted by De Laurentiis in the early 1960s regarding a possible adaptation of the story of Jesus, which in the end came to nothing. Bergman also enjoyed close contacts with Kohner, who was the agent of Bergman actress Liv Ullmann. As with predecessors like Mauritz Stiller, who had entered Hollywood in the 1920s accompanied by Greta Garbo, Bergman’s possible entrance into Hollywood was connected to his leading female star. Kohner was also involved with certain distribution deals regarding Bergman’s films in the USA. The possible projects discussed by Bergman and Kohner mainly concerned a possible Hollywood adaptation for the cinema of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow, starring American actress Barbra Streisand, a project which also involved de Laurentiis as producer. Had the film been made, it would have become the fourth film version of this story. Although it was discussed for several years and went through various stages of development, Bergman’s enthusiasm for the project eventually waned, and Elsaesser emphasizes Bergman’s difficulties in adapting to Hollywood professional strategies. As for de Laurentiis, he would eventually produce Bergman’s English-language film The Serpent’s Egg (1977), shot in Germany during Bergman’s self-imposed exile from Sweden.
There is ample use of still photography in Ingmar Bergman’s films, in which they serve many and varied functions. They have been shown to add historical and political context, as in Persona (1966), or have served, in Linda Rugg’s expression, as ‘portals into the past’. They have also been shown to be important components in Bergman’s autobiographical project in the latter part of his career, particularly in the novels based on his parents’ lives, Den goda viljan (1991)/Best Intentions (1993), Söndagsbarn (1993)/Sunday’s Children (1994), and Enskilda samtal/Private Confessions (1996). This chapter is concerned with the functions of photographs in Bergman’s writings, particularly with their linguistic description and extraordinary attention to detail, with the aim of showing how such ekphrases go well beyond their role in the stages of imaginative conception in general, or their organic and ‘realistic’ place in the fiction of the individual works. Rather, the aim here is to show to what extent such ekphrases serve as invitations to media experiences or media meditations in Bergman’s writings through a selection of ekphrastic descriptions of photographs, particularly in two of the novels mentioned above, Best Intentions and Sunday’s Children. The chapter presents some passages from previously unpublished diaries as well as earlier versions of the scripts, which were eventually edited from the published version.
This chapter is an attempt to outline some of the specific literary qualities of Ingmar Bergman’s screenplays. As the chapter demonstrates, Bergman’s writing is a great artistic achievement in its own right. As screenplays, Bergman’s scripts are rather idiosyncratic and variegated. Reading Bergman may sometimes be a similar experience to that of reading a traditional drama (Scenes from a Marriage, Autumn Sonata); a novel (parts of Fanny and Alexander, Sunday’s Children); or even poetry (Persona). At times, Bergman’s writings seem to defy not only their genre but their purpose. The script of the film Hour of the Wolf thus seems to resist adaptation for the screen. More of a closet drama, the work is first and foremost literature. Bergman’s use of the Swedish language is, as any speaker of Swedish would notice, rather peculiar. His written language is archaic, elevated, highly strung—in short: written rather than spoken. As such, the ceremonious language in which characters speak indicates how communication in Bergman is always conditioned by conventions, norms, and structures. Bergman is notoriously hard to translate. With its emphasis on prosodic rhythm, phonetics, and puns, his unique style is sometimes lost in translation. His use of punctuation marks is an example of how even the smallest parts of the (written) language, such as colons, exclamation marks, and question marks, were carefully selected by the author in order to make a point.
The notion and theoretical importance of ‘musical moments’ in film has recently attracted more and more attention; but this development has mostly been confined to musical numbers, usually song performances. In Bergman’s films, we quite often find scenes with musical numbers and musical numbers that constitute musical moments; in other words, the moments are of narrative importance. These kinds of musical moments are not in focus in this chapter, however. Instead, the searchlight is placed on scenes that use film music—that is, music which was originally composed for the films in question and is almost impossible to listen to as autonomous music. These film-musical moments in Bergman’s films deviate from the narrative and the aesthetics of the film and are distinctively transformative in that they constitute turning points. Hence, this chapter’s use of the concept ‘musical moment’ expands the notion from a musical number (in the form of a song) to the integrated use of film music in a transformative moment, but a moment where the music still ‘takes over’. Bergman’s transformative film-musical moments are rare; but when they do appear, they are striking and powerful. Examples occur in Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), Persona (1966), and Hour of the Wolf (1968). The transformation operates on two levels: the scenes are transformative for the lives of the characters in the film, as well as transformative for the narrative and the unfolding of the film. Besides, they offer a profound aesthetic experience even when they are not seen in their narrative context.
This chapter is a reading of Ingmar Bergman’s last film, Saraband, directed for Swedish public service television in 2003. The film, which is structured like a chamber play, offers a kind of summary of Bergman’s cinematic universe, with a number of intertextual connections to several of his most important works, including Wild Strawberries (1957), The Magician (1958), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), and, especially, Scenes from a Marriage (1973); Saraband can actually be interpreted as the sequel to the latter. Saraband contains open and hidden allusions to theological questions that have been recurrent in Bergman’s work. The mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and his interpretation of Heaven and Hell, and especially the world of spirits, is present in allusions and conversations, as well as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) with his preludes to Existentialism. The reading of the film is guided by the concept of liminality. The characters are all in different stages of liminalities; and the borders between the living and the dead, as well as between one human soul and another, are constantly transcended or problematized. Bergman also returns to the kind of self-reflexive narration that he once introduced in Persona through the use of black-and-white film stills, and characters addressing the audience through the ‘fourth wall’. The film reflects upon itself as an artefact and as a work of fiction. This self-reflexivity, finally, is seen as the ‘ghost’, working in the machine of Bergman’s cinematic storytelling.
This chapter argues that we can compare key elements in the work of Ingmar Bergman with ideas in the Kleinian tradition of psychoanalytic theory, including specific concepts such as ‘the depressive position’ and the significance of ‘envy’. In particular, the chapter tracks the importance of narrative integration, a key concept from Kleinian aesthetics, in specific passages, paying attention to the details of film style. The chapter considers two films from the 1950s: Sawdust and Tinsel and Dreams, focusing on scenes and sequences where dialogue is absent or minimal. Ingmar Bergman’s continuing engagement with the aesthetics of silent cinema is explored with further reference to key films of that era, which he continued to be fascinated by. The chapter aims to show how an aesthetic influenced by silent cinema is integrated in key passages of the chosen films to explore psychological conflict and reparation. Patterns representing the characters’ inner struggles, in both works, are seen to diverge to an extent from the unresolved conflicts in the influential silent classics that continued to inspire Bergman’s creative methods. The analysis attends to the way both works represent a balance between the inner world of the leading characters and a vivid representation of the social world. Building on established critical writing about these films, the author aims to show that this psychologically intense filmmaking is simultaneously engaged with social conflicts, a balance that accords with work that has sought to reveal the social and political dimensions of Kleinian theory.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.