Saturday, October 20, 2018

Isak Jacobi's tale in Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

Fanny and Alexander: Isak Jacobi (Erland Josephson) tells the tale from an old Hebrew book.

Fanny och Alexander: Ingmar Bergman directs Erland Josephson.

You are journeying along an endless highway together with many other people.

Wagons drawn by big horses rattle past, forcing the wanderers and the herds of cattle to the sides of the road or down into the deep ditches.

The road leads across a stony plain where nothing grows. The fiery sun burns from morning to evening, and nowhere can you find any coolness or shade. A scorching wind is blowing; together with all the people, the carts, and the cattle, it stirs up huge clouds of dust, which chokes your mouth and blinds your eyes. You are driven forward by a strange anxiety and you are tormented by a raging thirst.

Sometimes you ask yourself or one of your fellow travelers about the goal for your pilgrimage, but the answer is uncertain and hesitant.

Suddenly you are standing in a wood. Night is falling and all is quiet; perhaps you hear the sleepy cheeping of a bird, perhaps you bear the sighing of the sunset wind in the tall trees.

You stand in astonishment, full of your anxiety and your distrust. You are alone. You are alone and you hear nothing because your ears are stopped up by the dust of the road. You see nothing because your eyes are inflamed by the merciless glare of the sunlight. Your mouth and throat are parched by the long journey and your cracked lips are tightly pressed around curses and harsh words.

So you do not hear the ripple of flowing water; you do not see the flashing stream in the dusk. Blinded, you stand beside it and do not know it is there. Like a sleepwalker you make your way along between the pools. Your unseeing skill is remarkable and soon you are back on the noisy highway in the burning shadowless light among the bellowing cattle, the furiously driven wagons, and the embittered people.

With a look of surprise you say to yourself: Here on the highway I feel safe. In the wood I was all by myself; in the wood it was lonely and horrible.

But the evening reflects its clear eye in the dusk of the wood. The water ripples tirelessly as it flows through the woods, becoming brooks, rivers, and deep lakes.

"Where does all this water come from?" the youth asked.

"It comes from a high mountain," replied the old man. "It comes from a mountain whose peak is covered by a mighty cloud."

"What kind of cloud?" the youth asked.

The old man replied: "Every man bears within him hopes, fears, longings. Every man cries his despair aloud. Some pray to a particular god, others utter their shouts into the void. This despair, this hope, this dream of deliverance, all these cries accumulate during thousands and thousands of years; all these sacrifices, all these longings collect and condense into a vast cloud round a high mountain."

"Out of the cloud rain streams down over the mountain, forming the brooks, the streams and the rivers, forming the deep springs where you can slake your thirst, where you can bathe your face, where you can cool your blistered feet."

"Everyone has at some time heard of the springs and the mountain and the cloud, but most people remain on the dusty highway for fear of not reaching some unknown destination before evening."

Fanny and Alexander, 5. Act: The Demons (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)

This "old Jewish tale" was written by Ingmar Bergman. Thanks for information: Jan Holmberg (Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman), see also: Jan Holmberg: Författaren Ingmar Bergman (2018), p. 134–135. – – – Mr. Ya'akov Yosef Halachmi 2 Nov 2018: "The book is too small – it looks like a book of prayers [Sidur] or Psalms – books of tales assemblies were usually printed in much bigger format."

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