Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Minnet av Ingmar Bergman / The Memory of Ingmar Bergman

Minnet av Ingmar Bergman / The Memory of Ingmar Bergman © 2018 Donner Productions. This image stems from previously unreleased footage shot in 1975 for Tre scener med Ingmar Bergman. Bergman was at his happiest one year before the tax tragedy.

Ingmar Bergmanin muisto.
    Suomi © 2018 Donner Productions / Bufo. P: Jörn Donner, Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff. D+SC: Jörn Donner. CIN (new footage): Rafael Donner – released in: 2K DCP. M: Pedro Hietanen. ED: Klaus Grabber. A documentary film. Featuring: Ingmar Bergman (archival footage), Jörn Donner.
    Archival footage from: Tre scener med Ingmar Bergman © Donner Productions 1975, Ingmar Bergman: Om liv och arbete © Why Not Films GmbH 1997. In association with: Kai Holmberg / Why Not Films GmbH.
    Locations: Stockholm, Filmstaden and Fårö (Sweden).
    Finnish festival premiere: 7.5.2018 Espoo Ciné / Hanaholmen.
    Theatrical copy: 2K DCP, in Swedish, English subtitles by Eva Malkki. 57 min
    Jörn Donner's previous Ingmar Bergman documentaries: Ingmar Bergmanin maailma (Tre scener med Ingmar Bergman, 1975), Bergman-kansio (The Bergman File, 1978), Intervju med Ingmar Bergman (1981), Ingmar Bergman – elämää ja työtä (Ingmar Bergman: Om liv och arbete, 1998).
    Introduced by Jörn Donner.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Bergman 100) with English subtitles, 15 May 2018.

"Här är evighetens strand."
"Here is the coast of eternity." 
– Edith Södergran (quoted in the film)

Jörn Donner first met Ingmar Bergman in Helsinki in 1953 when Bergman had come to promote Summer with Monika together with Harriet Andersson. Footage from that visit is included in Donner's new Bergman documentary. Donner and Bergman became lifelong acquaintances, "sometime friends", as Donner puts it. Donner remembers Bergman's last words from their last telephone conversation. "Wir verbleiben". [German: "We'll remain {in touch}".]

Donner's first visit abroad had been to Stockholm at the age of 16, as an exchange student to the Södra Latin läroverket. There schoolmates urged him to see a new film by a relatively unknown young director. The film was Fängelse / Prison which had just had its premiere on 18 March 1949. It was the first film in which Ingmar Bergman was completely on his own as a director. It was a revelation for Donner, the most original and impressive film he had seen. Possibly it was this screening that turned Donner into an indefatigable film devotee.

Donner wrote the first book-length critical study of Ingmar Bergman as a film-maker, Djävulens ansikte (1962) / The Personal Vision of Ingmar Bergman (1964). He produced Bergman's last film for theatrical release, Fanny and Alexander (1984). He has made four documentaries on Bergman. This, his fifth, is based on previously unreleased footage from his ten hours of filmed interviews with Bergman conducted in 1975 and 1997.

Bergman is in great form in the interview footage. There is a Proustian sequence in which Bergman discusses the senses of a child. "I carry my childhood with me". He can remember his childhood sensually in detail: the beautiful tiled stove, the woodshed, their smell, and the beautiful scent of his grandmother, the entire world of scents in his childhood. This was before his discovery of the cruelty of the grown-ups' world.

His introduction to the theatre was at the age of six or seven, to see Little Red Riding Hood (Rödluvan) at the Röda Kvarnet in a charity event of the Red Cross. Ingmar was so scared by the tailor that he screamed. At home mother was a director of tableaux, and Ingmar debuted in the role of a chanterelle. Puppet theatre together with his sister, four years younger, became important. Around the same time Ingmar made his first visit to the professional theatre, Dramaten, in 1928, in a play which was one of Alf Sjöberg's first stage productions. The temptation was enormous. It was exciting, it was magical. Ingmar never wanted to create puppet performances for himself only, they were always designed for an audience. And there was always a fee, even if only symbolic.

Talking about religion, becoming liberated from it in the middle of the 1950s provided Bergman an endless sense of relief. He got rid of an enormous ballast. He got the insight that "vi har detta enda liv", we have this one life. In Through a Glass Darkly there is still hesitation. In Winter Light the hesitation is removed.

What remained was the sense of the holy. Listening to music, be it Mozart, Bartok or Beethoven, Ingmar is aware of the holiness in the human being him/herself.

Why create? The only reason to create is a search of contact. That is what drives him.

Shock is natural, part of the natural course of things. "I am a dramatist. I see reality as drama. It is as if I'd carry a tape recorder with me all the time."

When Bergman became his own producer after the fall of the studio system in the 1960s he admits that he had to become more careful, due to the responsibility to his staff. "As a producer I have to realize that people {distributors, exhibitors} try to cheat me as much as possible".

Bergman even reminisces his army days before WWII. The equipment, the kulspruta [old-fashioned word for a machine gun] was from the year 1914. The idea was to be prepared for an invasion of the Nazis. (Sweden stayed neutral during WWII).

The kind of people that Bergman loves the most are actors. Even when he is stern and critical they sense intuitively that he loves them. "Jag ställer in mig" ("I attune myself").

As an artist Bergman is a cannibal. He eats others and also himself without moral inhibitions. But he changes everything. Nobody can recognize true life models except the models themselves. Only once he consciously and obviously modelled film characters after real people: in creating the inferno couple in Wild Strawberries, to get even with a vicious person who had insulted Bergman in public.

Young people always want to learn from Bergman, and he is always eager to help. What can they learn from him? "Ingenting" ("nothing"). "It's in my genes. Already my mother was a director: of the family, of the priest's house". Young directors nod eagerly to Bergman's remarks, and the next day they have forgotten everything, which is how it should be. "Directors must follow their own path".

These are some of the main discussion points in Donner's documentary tribute. Some points are familiar from Bergman's books, but there is special intimacy in these interviews. Bergman enjoys talking, and the warm presence and sense of humour in this previously unreleased footage makes this a rewarding centenary tribute.

It is also a wistful and deeply personal journey for Donner with his son Rafael to Fårö and key sites such as the old Filmstaden which had housed the golden ages of Swedish cinema until the 1960s. A confession ends this journey. "Utan Bergman vore jag en annan". "Without Bergman I would be someone else".

NB. Finnish is a special language for being gender neutral. There is no he or she, only one universal word, hän. Here I for the first time noticed a tendency to gender neutral expressions in Swedish. "Heligheten in i människan själv" ("The holiness in the human being itself").



“In March of 1953, as I recall in this memorial film, the then 34-year-old Ingmar Bergman visited Helsinki. He was not yet the world-class star he would later become. I myself was 20 years of age, had written a few books, occupied myself as a film critic, and was passionate about film. It was the beginning of an acquaintance that would last for sixty years.

I wrote two books about him, of which the first (published in 1962) focused exclusively on his films. The second book was published in 2009.

With regard to Bergman, the memorial film comprises previously unreleased fragments from two extensive interviews I conducted with him in 1975 and 1997 – the latter on the occasion of his eightieth birthday on 14 July.

To provide a setting for these conversation snippets, my son Rafael and I made two journeys during the summer of 2017 to Stockholm and to the island of Fårö, where Bergman kept a house for several decades, and where he died.

I tried to recall our acquaintance in my mind, including both its best aspects and the difficulties in associating with him. I also wanted to express something that not all those external to the events have understood: that his film Fanny and Alexander would never have come about without me.

In the film I also openly state something I have often repeated, which is that without Bergman I would be a different man. He has influenced many others, too. It could equally be said that without Bergman, the world of film would not be the same. He lives on through his best works.

My personal reminiscences and Bergman’s own words from the interviews in this film can be my contribution to the celebrations of the centenary of Bergman’s birth.”

-Jörn Donner


”Maaliskuussa 1953 silloin 34-vuotias Ingmar Bergman vieraili Helsingissä, kuten tässä elokuvassa muistelen. Hän ei ollut vielä se suuri kansainvälinen tähti, joka hänestä sittemmin tuli. Itse olin 20-vuotias, olin kirjoittanut muutaman kirjan ja harjoittanut elokuvakritiikkia, ja olin intohimoinen elo-kuvan ystävä. Näin alkoi tuttavuus, jota kesti 60 vuotta.
    Kirjoitin hänestä kaksi kirjaa, joista ensimmäinen (julkaistu vuonna 1962) keskittyi ainoastaan hänen elokuviinsa. Toinen kirja julkaistiin vuonna 2009.
    Muistoelokuvani sisältää ennen esittämättömiä jaksoja kahdesta laajasta filmatusta haastattelusta, jotka tein hänen kanssaan vuosina 1975 ja 1997 – jälkimmäinen liittyen hänen 80. syntymäpäiväänsä 14.7.
    Luodakseni taustan näille keskustelujaksoille tein poikani Rafaelin kanssa kaksi matkaa kesällä 2017. Kävimme Tukholmassa ja Fårön saarella, jossa Bergman piti kotiaan monen vuosikymmenen ajan ja jossa hän kuoli.
    Yritin palauttaa mieleeni tuttavuutemme ja ottaa mukaan sekä sen parhaat puolet että vaikeudet, jotka minulla oli suhteessa häneen. Halusin myös tuoda esiin jotakin, mitä kaikki eivät ole ymmär-täneet: että hänen elokuvansa Fanny ja Alexander ei olisi koskaan valmistunut ilman minua.
    Totean tässä elokuvassa avoimesti jotakin, mitä olen usein toistanut: että ilman Bergmania olisin toinen ihminen. Hän on vaikuttanut moniin muihinkin. Voisi myös sanoa, että elokuvataide olisi toinen ilman Bergmania. Hän elää yhä parhaiden elokuviensa kautta.
    Henkilökohtaiset muistikuvani ja Bergmanin omat sanat haastatteluissa saavat olla minun osuuteni hänen syntymänsä satavuotismuistoksi.”

– Minnet av Ingmar Bergman -lehdistöaineisto (käännös englannista) 15.5.2018 AA

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