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Posted by Job O Brother, July 14, 2007 08:23am | Post a Comment

Today is Ingmar Bergman’s birthday!

I know – you’re ready to leap from the computer to rush out to buy a piñata and cake.

Or, more likely, you re-read the above sentence a couple times as your brain grappled with confusion over whether or not I wrote Ingrid Bergman. Quite possibly, some of you still think I did.


Actress Ingrid Bergman, star of "Casablanca" and the Bergman film "Autumn Sonata";
no relation to the director and much better looking in a dress.

I’m not being (intentionally) condescending; it’s just that that’s what seems to happen every time I gush about my most favorite film director.

Fellini, Buñuel, Pasolini, Hitchcock, Godard, Woody Allen… There are many film directors that cause me to go weak in the superego, but none of them so deeply penetrate my soul and slop it on the screen like ol’ Ingmar.

Furthermore, many of his films star his ex-wife and one of my favorite actresses, Liv Ullman.


Liv Ullman looking ravishing as she has a nervous breakdown in "Persona"

I’m the first to admit that his films aren’t for everyone. They’re an intimidating option when considering an evening’s entertainment. When faced with “what to do”, who in their right mind would subject themselves to a somber, cryptic and psychologically penetrating film in which handsome Swedes come to grips with their innermost core-of-self amidst Midnight Sun landscapes?

Me. I would subject myself. Sadly, I’m often alone for the ride. It’s hard to convince your date that a five hour epic like “Scenes From a Marriage” – in which you see a happy couple crumble toward divorce in episodes that make “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” seem like “Oliver & Company” – is good material for snuggling.


"Oh darling, I can hardly wait until your treachery leads me to contemplate suicide!"
Liv Ullman & Erland Jospehson in "Scenes From a Marriage"
My father was a proud Swede. Actually, most Swedes are proud Swedes. Listening to him speak about Swedish culture, you’d think the Garden of Eden still existed, and it’s capital was Stockholm. He took me there when I was a teenager for a disastrous trip that was meant to bring us closer together but instead ended up in me pretending to have the flu and hiding in my hotel room to watch Euro-Mtv while he went out in search of museums and got lost.

Even so, his expressions of admiration for Sweden had an impact on me; not in that I was hypnotized with amour for the country itself, rather, it became a reminder of everything that was my father. He was a typical Swede, so Swedes remind me of him. (He passed away in 2000.)

Oh… I suppose I should have mentioned that Ingmar Bergman is Swedish. Those of you who didn’t know were probably wondering what the hell was going on as I leapt from subject to subject without any semblance of continuity. Sorry!

Anyway, milkshakes are a delicious, cool, dessert beverage that are wonderful to attract ants with on a hot summer’s day.


I cite my relationship with my father because it accounts for some of the profound emotional impact that Bergman’s work has on me. Those of you who didn’t have stoic, Swedish dads who were raised by Victorian women (and many of you don’t, it seems) may not buckle in the face of Bergman’s work like I do. The final scene of “Through a Glass Darkly” ends with the son exclaiming in astonishment that his father “spoke” to him (meaning honestly) and it makes me cry every time.

Even so, you may find yourself deeply pondering the nature of your heart and mind after watching one of his movies. Bergman himself stated (in a 2004 interview) that he can no longer watch his own films because they "depress him". Ouch.

Many, many filmmakers cite Bergman as an influence, and any film student will/has been presented with his work.

There are dozens of hilarious spoofs of his films: Chevy Chase and Louise Lasser do a sketch in the first season of Saturday Night Live about tricking Death into leaving them alone by sending him away to pick up a pizza; SCTV has a great scene in which listless women babble in fake Swedish while accosted by midgets; the character of Death in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is a take-off of the Death character in “The Seventh Seal” and Woody Allen’s fantastic film “A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy” is rife with silly nods to the director.


"I would love to have children!" Happier times between Woody & Mia

Woody Allen very directly (no pun intended) went through a period wherein which he made films so obviously influenced by Ingmar that they are referred to as his “Bergman period”. They also account for the period in which fans of Woody’s comic pieces were frustrated and annoyed by him. Of these works, “Interiors” is the most obvious “Bergman film”.


Separated at birth: Scenes from Ingmar's "Autumn Sonata" & Woody's "Another Woman"

Are you still reading this? It’s not one of my funnier blogs. I get really worked up by Bergman.

If you’ve never seen any of his works, I recommend starting with “The Seventh Seal”. It’s his most famous, and it’s a good gauge to determine whether or not to continue with others. If you see it and like it, continue on with “Persona” (a personal favorite). If you hated it, try “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” because it is funny and has nothing to do with Bergman. At all.

And let me know what you think. I’m always curious to hear people’s opinions about his films.

Grattis på födelsedagen, Ingmar!

Relevant Tags

Angst (5), Woody Allen (4), Swedish Cinema (3), Sweden (5), Ingrid Bergman (3), Liv Ullman (3), Ingmar Bergman (5), Film (72), Milkshakes (1), Saturday Night Live (9), Sctv (3), Chevy Chase (1), Louise Lasser (1)