Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jan Holmberg: Författaren Ingmar Bergman / [The Writer Ingmar Bergman] (a book)

Ingmar Bergman writes. Photo: Svensk Filmindustri.

Ingmar Bergman Skrifter. Photo: Norstedts.

Ingmar Bergman Filmberättelser. Photo: Norstedts.

Ingmar Bergman Centenary book series (40 by Bergman plus one by Jan Holmberg).

Jan Holmberg: Författaren Ingmar Bergman / [The Writer Ingmar Bergman]. ISBN 978-91-1-307652-2. 289 p. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2018.

From the pages of the Norstedts publishing house:

Norstedts firar Bergmanåret 2018: Författaren Ingmar Bergman står i fokus när vi firar 100-årsjubilaren med en utgivning av hela fyrtio titlar. / [Norstedts celebrates the Bergman Year 2018: The writer Ingmar Bergman is in focus as we celebrate the centenary hero with a release of 40 titles.]

Ingmar Bergman Skrifter: sex band i bibliofilformat / [Works of Ingmar Bergman: six volumes in bibliophile format]:
Laterna Magica
Arbetsboken 1955–1974 / [The Work Book 1955–1974]
Artiklar, essäer, föredrag
/ [Articles, Essays, Lectures]
Ofilmat, ospelat, outgivet
/ [Unfilmed, Unplayed, Unpublished]. Foreword by Abdellah Taîa.
Arbetsboken 1975–2001
/ [The Work Book 1975–2001]. Foreword by Karl Ove Knausgård.
Romantrilogin: Den goda viljan (1991), Söndagsbarn (1993) och Enskilda samtal (1996)
/ [The Novel Trilogy: The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children, Private Confessions]. Foreword by Daniel Mendelsohn.

Ingmar Bergman: Filmberättelser. 34 band som print on demand. Samtliga av Bergmans filmmanus med kortare efterord av Jan Holmberg och i vissa fall förord av författaren själv. / [Ingmar Bergman: Film Stories. 34 volumes in print on demand. Bergman's complete film scripts with short afterwords by Jan Holmberg and in certain cases with forewords by the writer himself]:

/ Torment (1944)
Fängelse / Prison (1949)
Till glädje / To Joy (1949)
Sommarlek / Summer Interlude (1951)
Kvinnors väntan / Secrets of Women (1952)
Gycklarnas afton / Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
En lektion i kärlek / A Lesson in Love (1954)
Kvinnodröm / Dreams (1955)
Sommarnattens leende / Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
Sista paret ut / Last Pair Out (1956)
Det sjunde inseglet / The Seventh Seal (1957)
Smultronstället / Wild Strawberries (1957)
Ansiktet / The Magician (1958)
Såsom i en spegel / Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Nattvardsgästerna / Winter Light (1963)
Tystnaden / The Silence (1963)
Persona / Persona (1966)
Vargtimmen / Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Skammen / Shame (1968)
Riten / The Rite (1969)
En passion / The Passion of Anna (1969)
Reservatet / The Lie / The Sanctuary (1970)
Beröringen / The Touch (1971)
Viskningar och rop / Cries and Whispers (1973)
Scener ur ett äktenskap / Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Ansikte mot ansikte / Face to Face (1976)
Ormens ägg / The Serpent's Egg (1977)
Höstsonaten / Autumn Sonata (1978)
Ur marionetternas liv / From the Life of the Marionettes (1980)
Fanny och Alexander / Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Efter repetitionen / After the Rehearsal (1984)
Larmar och gör sig till / In the Presence of a Clown (1997)
Trolösa / Faithless (2000)
Saraband / Saraband (2003)

AA: Among the lasting achievements of the Ingmar Bergman Centenary Year is the launching in newly restored editions of the complete films of the maestro in both 35 mm and digital formats. They have also been released as a monster 30 blu-ray box set in the Criterion Collection, complete with documentaries, introductions and a book. There are 39 films in the box set. Even for the one who has access to the films proper the Criterion editions are indispensable because of the documentaries. For instance, Bakomfilm Höstsonaten at 210 minutes is a stunning record of Bergman as a director of actors, a veritable masterclass.

Less well known is that Bergman's publishing house Norstedts has published his collected writings in an edition of 40 volumes (see list above). I have not even started to study them but it is great to know that they are available. Most of the titles are well-known, but also unproduced screenplays have now been published for the first time. Amazingly, some of Bergman's most famous film scripts such as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries have been published in Swedish only now, in 2018. (They have been available in English and other languages since the 1950s).

Bergman himself was for a long time reluctant to let his screenplays be published. As long as he was fully engaged as a director for the cinema and the theatre he was insecure of his qualities as a writer. But his last film Fanny and Alexander was a turning-point. It was as if a magic fountain had been opened, and he started writing engrossing novels such as the trilogy The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children, and Private Confessions, and classic memoirs such as Laterna Magica and Bilder.

Jan Holmberg, director of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, has now published the first comprehensive study of Bergman as a writer. Among his distinguished predecessors is Maaret Koskinen who focused on Bergman's largely unknown early achievements as a writer in her study I begynnelsen var ordet – Ingmar Bergman och hans tidiga författarskap / [In the Beginning Was the Word – Ingmar Bergman and His Early Years as a Writer] (2002).

In his book Holmberg covers the entire field of Bergman as a writer: workbooks, letters, essays, reviews, obituaries (Victor Sjöström), plays, short stories, script editorship, memoirs, and novels. And most importantly, his screenplays or filmberättelser (film stories): that was the term agreed on with his trusted publisher, Lasse Bergström at Norstedts.

Bergman was a graphomaniac who shared Zola's conviction of nulla dies sine linea (not a day without a sentence). Every day he wrote for three hours. He conquered the horror of the blank page by frontal attack: he started by scribbling banal observations and trivial nonsense until meaningful words started to materialize. The mechanical practice of writing led to the emergence of words and thoughts that mattered.

An important apprenticeship took place during the war under the stern leadership of Stina Bergman (no relation: she was the widow of the writer Hjalmar Bergman): Bergman polished, edited and rewrote script materials on a conveyor belt for the biggest film company of the country, Svensk Filmindustri (now called SF Studios). Bergman viewed daily the latest Hollywood productions and learned by heart the classical Hollywood narrative and its twisted 1940s variations as studied recently by David Bordwell in Reinventing Hollywood (2017). (The best account of this apprenticeship is in Mikael Timm's supreme, magisterial biography Lust och dämonerna [The Desire and the Demons, 2008], which should be translated and made widely known).

Having learned the craft of classical storytelling Bergman was able to embark on his personal career with an original approach in film stories such as Fängelse / Prison and Sommarlek / Summer Interlude.

Whatever one thinks of Bergman as a writer, the joy and passion in his writing is undeniable. I discovered Bergman as a writer in 1974 when Scenes from a Marriage was published in Finnish as a book. I bought it and read it several times. Scenes from a Marriage the book was the turning-point of Bergman as a popular writer also in Finland.

Bergman's dialogue has been criticized for being unnatural, but his defenders compare him with Shakespeare: nobody ever spoke like the characters of Shakespeare. Bergman's dialogue is elevated and stylized but effective, and actors love to perform it also in theatre productions.

Already Marianne Höök in her pioneering Bergman biography in 1962 saw Bergman's oeuvre as "ett enda stort jagdrama" – "one big drama of self-searching". It was a long quest in a hall of mirrors. "Jag är jag och du är du. Fast det är väl inte alldeles säkert" – "I am me and you are you. Although it is not quite certain".

Like his friend Federico Fellini, Bergman was "a sincere liar". Like Pablo Picasso, art was for him "a lie that helps to find the truth" (as quoted by Orson Welles in F for Fake).

After Fanny and Alexander Bergman in his every book found a new dimension in the family drama of his parents. In the most moving moment of Sunday's Children Erik Bergman as his last words on his deathbed gives his blessing to Ingmar. Ingmar was coming to the realization that he had done a great injustice to his father. Finally, when it was already too late, Ingmar was ready to ask for forgiveness. Jan Holmberg sums up that the novel trilogy is "Ingmar Bergman's ambivalent and hopelessly belated confession of love to his parents – particularly his father".

Delving deeper into his memories Bergman confessed that "I live constantly in my childhood", but also that "I live permanently in my dream and from there perform visits to reality". As if he was living in Strindberg's Dream Play where "time and space don't exist". Ever since Fängelse / Prison he was obsessed by Swedenborg's view that hell already exists on Earth. And like Ibsen in Når vi døde vågner / When We Dead Awaken he constantly returned to the theme of being already dead without realizing it. On the other hand, having given up formal and official church religion, since the 1960s Bergman saw love as the conquering reality. He cherished holiness in life and the human beings themselves. Like Bach, he wanted to dedicate his work Soli Deo Gloria.

Holmberg has a vested interest in launching Bergman as a writer since his foundation is the rightholder of Bergman's literary legacy, including the rights for theatre and opera productions. Provocatively Holmberg downplays Bergman as a film-maker and emphasizes him as a writer. I agree with Holmberg about Bergman's status as a writer but it is also clear that Bergman's standing as a film-maker keeps growing, not least thanks to the rediscoveries of this centenary year.

A case in point for Holmberg is The Hour of the Wolf which he thinks is superior as a book and not very successful as a film, and actually unfilmable. I am happy to disagree. I look forward to reading the book but when I revisited The Hour of the Wolf the film six years ago I found it had grown in intensity. One of Bergman's most personal and mysterious films, it belongs to a special core in his work which also includes Persona and Ansikte mot ansikte.

Jan Holmberg digresses at times to formalities and pedantry, and there is even an excursion into Bergman's use of punctuation marks. But the last three chapters (on memoirs, novels, and the late writings) are of real substance and include some of the finest writing on Ingmar Bergman.

During the centenary year it has become clearer that Bergman is with Andersen, Ibsen, Strindberg and Sibelius one of the greatest Nordic artists of all times.

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