Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bergman – ett år, ett liv / Bergman – A Year in a Life



Bergman yksi vuosi, yksi elämä.
    SE 2018. PC: B-Reel Films. Co-production companies: SVT, SF Studios, Gotland’s Film Fund, Film Capital Stockholm fund, Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning, Reel Ventures and Motlys. With support from: The Swedish Film Institute, The Norwegian Film Institute, Nordisk Film & tv fond and Creative Europe.
    D: Jane Magnusson. CIN: Emil Klang 1920 x 1080 2K DCP. ED: Hanna Lejonqvist. Head of research: Henrik von Sydow. Assistant researcher: Erik Galli. Sound: 5.1
    117 min.
    Original language: Swedish, English.
    From my viewing notes:
    Languages also include: French, German, and Norwegian.
    Featuring: archival: Ingmar Bergman, Dick Cavett, Dag Bergman, Bibi Andersson, Linn Ullmann.
    Featuring: new: Arne Strömgren, Gunnel Lindblom, Jan Troell, Thommy Berggren, Birgit De Geer, Dick Cavett, Gösta Ekman, Barbra Streisand, Arnold Weinstein, Jan Malmsjö, Jan Winter, Maria-Pia Boëthius, Michael Degen, Owe Svensson, Mikael Persbrandt, Anders Thunberg, Katinka Faragó, Inga Landgré, Gunilla Palmstierna Weiss, Birgitta Pettersson, Peter Fischer, Stefan Larsson, Lena Endre, Roy Andersson, Marie Richardson, Liv Ullmann, Kenne Fant, Suzanne Osten, Pernilla August, Benny Haag, Bengt Wasenius, Lena Olin, Madeleine Grive, Antonia Pyk, Agnetha Ekmanner, Thorsten Flinck, Anita Haglöf. Short remarks by (probably from Bergman's Video): Lars von Trier, John Landis, Holly Hunter, Zhang Yimou.
    Finnish premiere: 10 Aug 2018, released by SF, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Irmeli Kuusela / Lars Thorsell.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 11 Aug 2018

Based on Finnish reviews yesterday I was not looking forward to seeing Bergman A Year in a Life. The emphases on the reviews were based on misrepresentations in the spirit of the "dark side of the genius" formula, fashionable in the 1970s, a latterday representative of which is the scandal journalist Thomas Sjöberg. Unfortunately this film has been influenced by him and it does play around with scandal in a way that is easy to misunderstand. There is a wealth of first rate material on Bergman which the film-makers have ignored. Of the several Ingmar Bergman centenary tribute films this is the weakest.

I loved Jane Magnusson's Bergman's Video series, based an inspired and illuminating concept, full of humour and surprises. Magnusson loves Bergman's films but evidently despises him as a person. It his her right, but a film based on contempt can become tedious to watch.

That said, I'm infinitely grateful for the wealth of archival material included from Bergman's work in film, the theatre, and television, including his precious "making of" films, and the archival interviews with Ingmar. The real sensation here is the interview footage with Ingmar's brother Dag Bergman, which had been suppressed by Ingmar. Dag turns upside down Ingmar's claims about their common childhood (we already knew this from other accounts by family members).

Among the many new interviews it was engrossing to see here the one with Inga Landgré (born 1927), the star of Ingmar's debut film Crisis (1946). And Kenne Fant, who died two years ago at 93. And Gösta Ekman who died last year at 77. A surprise witness is Jan Winter, the son of Dieter Winter who as a child was rescued from the Holocaust by the Bergman family. Also the testimony of Liv Ullmann is important, swimming against Jane Magnusson's anti-Bergmanian current.

My emotional response to this film is that it does include a full official acknowledgement of Bergman's merits as an artist, but it does not come from the heart. Instead, the hate against Bergman as a person seems genuine and heartfelt.

Bergman A Year in a Life is a feature film connected with Jane Magnussons's multi-episode tv series project on Bergman. The announced focus of the feature film is on Bergman's annus mirabilis, 1957, but it keeps digressing to cover everything. The film might have been stronger if it had stayed in focus. There certainly would have been enough exciting material!

Now there is a bit too much surfing from topic to topic and soundbite to soundbite in regular dvd bonus feature fashion. Because Magnusson genuinely loves the films, it would have been rewarding to hear more about her personal in-depth evaluations of Bergman's films premiered in 1957, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries her own updated reaction to them. Wild Strawberries is not flawless, and The Seventh Seal has been endlessly spoofed. How have they stood the test of time?

And how would a woman evaluate Brink of Life, also produced in 1957 (but released the year after)? It's a practically all-woman affair, and not the only one in Bergman's oeuvre. What is the feminist reception of Bergman today? Bergman was never interested in female stereotypes. His women were modern, complex, surprising and independent. His actresses never had to repeat themselves. He loved to give them new challenges.

Technically the film is very well made. The music score is conventional.

The clips from the new digital restorations seem brilliantly unreal, sharp and airless. This is not how the films originally looked.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: DATA FROM THE PRESSBOOK:
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: DATA FROM THE PRESSBOOK:

BERGMAN’S 1957, the most productive year

February 16th
The Seventh Seal film premiere

March 8th
the five-hour long theatre production of Peer Gynt opens at the National Theatre in Malmö

April 18th
Mr. Sleeman is Coming airs on SVT, Swedish public broadcasting company.

The next day the radio theatre production of The Prisoner is on Swedish Radio.

July 2nd
Wild Strawberries shooting begins, with the filming being completed on August 27th.

October 14th, Night Light, directed by Lars-Eric Kjellgren premiers, with a script co-written by Ingmar Bergman.

November 16th
the radio theatre production of Gogol’s Cheaters airs on Swedish Radio.

December 6th
the theatre production of The Misanthrope opens at the National theatre in Malmö.

December 26th
Wild Strawberries has its Boxing Day premiere.

COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTOR:

“Most of the 2010s decade has been for me strongly linked to Ingmar Bergman. Firstly, I spent three years working on a television series and documentary film titled Trespassing Bergman. I travelled all over the world talking to filmmakers who have been inspired, terrified, redeemed or, for better or worse, astounded by him.

Zhang Yimou told me how he first saw Wild Strawberries at film school in Beijing directly after The Cultural Revolution, and how his view of cinema changed that day. Ang Lee remembered, with his eyes filled with tears, how seeing The Virgin Spring in Taipei in 1974 made him feel like he lost his own virginity – for real. Alexander Payne, sitting in Los Angeles, considered The Seventh Seal to be overrated, while in New York a nervous Martin Scorsese admitted that he still did not understand Bergman’s films – having, nevertheless, the courage to admit that they will never seem dated.

None of these fantastic filmmakers had ever met Bergman. They only knew him through his films. Starting from this material, I began to wonder what people who actually worked with and talked to him would have to say about the master. Would a different picture appear?

During the last three years I have been talking to Bergman’s co-workers. From his stars such as Gunnel Lindblom, to his producer and script-girl Katinka Farago, to sound technicians and assistant directors. They paint a multi-coloured image of a great artist who could be very inspiring, but also terrifying. A man who is super sensitive to sound, light, food, dreams, but not really to other people. A man who worked harder and faster than anyone else in the history of cinema.

Bergman lived a very long life and he was incredibly productive. My problem, then, was how to tell his story in less than two hours. It seemed impossible. However, during my research a single year kept popping up: 1957, Bergman’s most magical and productive year. He shoots two films and a special movie for television. His films The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries have their premieres. He directs four major theatre productions, has 6 children with four different women, and several affairs. I thought – why hasn’t anyone made a film about this? Perhaps one can tell the story of Bergman by focusing on just this one year? This is what I set out to do. Now it is done.”

ABOUT BERGMAN

Ernst Ingmar Bergman, was born on the 14th of July 1918 in Uppsala, Sweden, and died the 30th of July 2007 on the island of Fårö. He was a Swedish film and theatre director, writer, theatre manager, screenwriter and novel author. During his life time, he directed 55 feature films and 171 major theatre productions and authored over a hundred books and articles. Among his best-known works are the films The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Persona, as well as his autobiography The Magic Lantern. He married 5 times, with countless affairs. Finally, he spawned 9 children with 6 women.

Throughout Bergman‘s many works, one finds variations on a central theme; dysfunctional families, blood-sucking failed artists and an absent Almighty, all becoming manifestations of our collective inability to communicate with each other. Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, and Strindberg were all enormously important influences on Bergman, not only in his theatrical work, but indeed in his entire artistic career. Aside of humiliation, the feeling of exclusion is also very present and essential in his work.

Bergman was the first to reflect man’s inner life, thoughts, doubts, uncertainties and anxieties on film. He did this for longer than anyone else and became better at it than any other film director in the world.

Bergman was capable of many things: one of these was humility, or at least he was good at pretending to be modest and doing comebacks. If he failed with a film – he made another. If he failed economically – he clawed his way back.

After 1957, Bergman makes 24 feature films, 59 theatre productions and 19 films made for Television. He writes scripts, makes short films and establishes himself as a recognized author with books such as Images: My Life in Film and The Magic Lantern. No matter how he may have affected us he was a master when it came to stimulating the public’s intellect.

MAIN CREW:
director: Jane Magnusson
cinematographer: Emil Klang
editors: Hanna Lejonqvist
head of research: Henrik von Sydow
assistant researcher: Erik Galli

TECHNICAL DETAILS
original title: Bergman - ett år, ett liv
international title: Bergman - a Year in a Life
duration: 117 min
aspect ratio: 1920 x 1080
year: 2018
format: 2K
sound: 5.1
original language: Swedish, English
country of production: Sweden
production companies: B-Reel Films
co-production companies: svt, sf Studios, Gotland’s Film Fund, Film Capital
Stockholm fund, Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning, Reel Ventures and Motlys
with support from: The Swedish Film Institute, The Norwegian Film Institute, Nordisk Film & tv fond and Creative Europe

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