Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007

Awoke to the CBC providing the sad news of Ingmar Bergman's death at age 89. I was introduced to Bergman's films as a grad student at Michigan and was immediately drawn to his work, no doubt in large part by the way his films depicted his struggle with faith and his emotionally powerful portrayals of relationships between men and women and families. In his films close-ups of the human face were often used to convey the subtlest of emotions, and were photographed beautifully by his long-time collaborator Sven Nykvist in films such as Persona, Cries and Whispers, and Fanny and Alexander. I was fortunate to see Bergman's final film, Saraband, at its North American premiere in Montreal at the Festival des Films du Monde in 2004. It was clear the master filmmakers' skill had not diminished with age.

In addition to his work as a film director, Ingmar Bergman had an even longer career as a theatre director but his work in theatre did not appear to receive the recognition it deserved. A number of his theatrical productions were staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Art and I had the opportunity to attend four: Peer Gynt, The Ghost Sonata, Ghosts, and Mary Stuart (and after the performance I met Bergman's friend and frequent collaborator, Erland Josephson). With a minimalist approach to stage and set design the viewer became an active participant in visualizing the drama onstage.

Ingmar Bergman made over fifty films and published several novels. Those who know me well will not be surprised that I've seen just about every film and read almost everything by and about Bergman that has appeared in English (I even once had a sweet cat named Ingmar).

At 89, I'm sure Bergman was tired, but I had selfishly hoped for a few more films.

As the Eastern Christians say, may your memory be eternal, Ingmar Bergman.