Monday, February 10, 2014

Reading about and around Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman directing the SVT play Bildmakarna / The Image Makers with Anita Björk as Selma Lagerlöf. Foto: © Bengt Wanselius. Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman.
I had the opportunity to speak to a hall full of psychologists on Ingmar Bergman, the topic being "The Long Voyage to Childhood", with the focus on his work after Fanny and Alexander, his farewell to the cinema. Bergman followed this farewell with a further almost 25 years of artistic activity, questioning everything to the end.

I discussed Fanny och Alexander 1–5 (312 min, tv series, a shortened film version, a novel, 1982), Karins ansikte (Karin's Face, c.m. 1983), Laterna Magica (a book of memoirs, 1987), Den goda viljan (The Best Intentions, 360 min, tv series, a shortened film version, D: Bille August, a novel, 1992), Söndagsbarn (Sunday's Children, film, D: Daniel Bergman, novel, 1992), Sista skriket (The Last Gasp, tv, also published in a book of small plays, 1995), Enskilda samtal (Private Conversations / Private Confessions, 195 min, tv miniseries, D: Liv Ullmann, novel, 1996), Larmar och gör sig till (In the Presence of a Clown / [Full of Sound and Fury], tv, [premiered as a play, 1993, also published in a book of small plays, 1994], 1997), Bildmakarna (The Image Makers, tv, b.o. Per Olov Enquist, 2000), and Saraband (Saraband, tv, 2003).

Included were Bergman's two late trilogies: the family trilogy (The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children, Private Conversations), and the film historical trilogy (The Last Gasp, In the Presence of a Clown, and The Image Makers).

Bergman always drew from the raw material of his own tormented life, heavily metamorphosing and fictionalizing things, battling with his demons every night.

Besides Bergman's own books, including also Bergman om Bergman and Bilder, I drew upon others' books on him, and, of course, most importantly, on:

Mikael Timm: Lusten och dämonerna. Boken om Bergman. [The Desire and the Demons. The Book on Bergman]. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2008. - Mikael Timm's huge authorized biography is the number one Ingmar Bergman source, full of exciting facts and interpretations. Timm sets the record straight in many matters of Bergman mythology.

Excited by the subject I kept reading after the lecture, and discovered:

Paisley Livingston: Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman. On Film as Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, paperback 2012. - Paisley Livington is the first Bergman scholar to investigate profoundly the director's remark about being influenced in Wild Strawberries by Eino Kaila and his book Persoonallisuus / Personlighetens psykologi / [Personality]. Bergman called that book the foundation upon which he built.

Inevitably, I could not help reading even:

Thomas Sjöberg: Ingmar Bergman - en berättelse om kärlek, sex och svek / [Ingmar Bergman - A Tale of Love, Sex, and Betrayal]. Falun: Lind & Co, 2013. - Thomas Sjöberg is the infamous author of "The Reluctant Monarch" which almost toppled the Royal Family of Sweden. His project here is similar: to drag Bergman through the mud, ignoring his artistic value. The awful book is well researched with a lot of new information and setting many further matters straight in the bewildering Bergman mythology. Sjöberg starts his book with an account how he was denied access to the Ingmar Bergman archives, but he could use a lot of published material plus private sources never before discussed in public. A book distinguished by a frank dislike of the author towards his subject.

But most importantly, my curiosity piqued by Mikael Timm's remark that Bergman re-read Eino Kaila's Personality at Sophiahemmet in the 1960s, I finally read that book, myself. My father warmly recommended it to me forty years ago. His favourite film was Wild Strawberries, but I don't think he was aware of the Kaila connection.

Eino Kaila: Persoonallisuus / [Personality]. First edition: 1934. Third edition: Helsinki: Otava, 1946. The book was translated into Swedish as Personlighetens psykologi, also published in three editions. - As a philosopher Eino Kaila was close to the Vienna Circle in the 1920s, and he coined the term "logical empiricism". Also as a psychologist Kaila was an empiricist, building his gestalt psychological approach on natural sciences. He was a leading intellectual, a member of the Finnish Academy, a legendary lecturer, a man of culture, also professionally involved with the theatre. He was able to provide his scientific presentations with a rich range of references to culture. Like Bergman, he was fascinated with Germany in the 1930s, but reacted with horror when he realized what was really going on.

Persona (1966) was the film that Bergman incubated at Sophiahemmet, and Personafilm was the name of Bergman's own production company later. It occurred to me that there might be a Kaila connection even here.

The key pages are in Chapter 8, The Totality of Personality, in section 11, at pages 358-359 in the edition I read. The topic discussed is the dilemma of authenticity. According to Kaila, since the child awakens to the symbol function (the insight that a word can represent a thing), there is an essential situation of inauthenticity in the human personality. A source of neurosis, which is something deeply human. Kaila quotes Schopenhauer: "Only the unconscious is authentic, everything conscious is a fraud". He further quotes Schopenhauer's remarks on how fittingly the concept "persona", common in all European languages, means a human individual, yet originally it means an actor's mask. Nobody represents himself as he is, insteady carrying a mask on his face and playing a role. Kaila further discusses C. G. Jung's thoughts on personality as a mask. But no individual can fully adjust to social personality roles, which leads to neurotic consequences. Kaila also discusses Nietzsche here.

A key concept for Kaila was syvähenkinen elämä, (also the title of his second most important book), which can be roughly translated as "the profoundly spiritual life". In the great tradition of Plato's Symposium Kaila means that a deeply meaningful life of the spirit has to frankly to acknowledge our authentic biological and animal identity. The life force (eros) and the spirit belong together in a profound way.

Like Bergman, Kaila was as a rule an opponent of psychoanalysis. But here Kaila quotes approvingly Freud's dictum that the mission of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious.

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