Sunday, March 10, 2013

Robin Wood: Ingmar Bergman: New Edition (2013) (a book)

Robin Wood: Ingmar Bergman. New Edition. Written by Robin Wood (1931-2009). Original book (1969), with later essays on Cries and Whispers (1973), Fanny and Alexander (1983), Persona revisited (1994), and From the Life of the Marionettes (2000). Edited by Barry Keith Grant. A new preface by Richard Lippe. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013.

Wayne State University Press has published expanded editions of Robin Wood's books Howard Hawks (2006), Personal Views (2006), and now Ingmar Bergman (2013).

When I got hold of this volume it instantly bypassed all the other works in my towering book piles. I had read the original book a long time ago, but now I felt the urgency much more acutely.

These writings belong to the very best ever written on Ingmar Bergman.

Robin Wood responds to the personal and daring subjectivity in Ingmar Bergman's films. He also reveals aspects of his personal life to conduct a kind of a symposium with the great artist.

A personal and subjective response is the impetus for the book, but the actual argument is matter-of-fact, based on precise observations.

In the final pages of the extended edition Wood expresses critical remarks about Bergman's fondness of isolating his characters from all social context.

In the 1970s and the 1980s I also felt that Bergman was out of touch with society, but then I realized that it was me who was having a tunnel vision and that Bergman was a great artist aware of his strengths and limitations, constantly exploring and developing along his own chosen and difficult paths. From subjects propitious to him Bergman could discover infinite riches.

In his original book Wood writes that Bergman's full mastery starts with Winter Light. Shame, the most recent Bergman film at the time of the writing of the original book, was then for Wood the culmination of Bergman's art.

I don't agree with Wood about everything, but at this reading this book became truly alive to me, I understand the films of Bergman more profoundly, and many films I now cannot probably see without acknowledging Wood's remarks. Kvinnors väntan / Waiting Women is a film I'll need to see more often.

The discussion on Winter Light ends with a Finnish connection: "Sibelius's Fourth - a work as austere, compressed, and enigmatic as Winter Light - is as far as I know unique among symphonies in ending not with a decisive fortissimo or pianissimo but with an indeterminate mezzo-forte. No conductor in my experience has ever played it like that; similarly, few seem willing to accept the very precisely defined 'mezzo-forte' of the end of Winter Light for what it is."

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