Archive for August 26th, 2011

by Sam Juliano

Ingmar Bergman was laid to rest on a misty morning in early August, 2007 on the island of Faro, where he spent the last years of his life.  At the cinema master’s request the ceremony was short and attended by only 70, including celebrated Bergman stock company thespians, Liv Ullman, Max Von Sydow and Erland Josephson.  Eulogies were noted for their brevity and the musical itinerery was a sparing employment of J.S. Bach by way of organ and cello.  This modest presentation may be been selected for it’s simple purity, but it underscored a deep passion for classical music that manifested itself from the very earliest films.  Music in Darkness (1948) tells the story of a young pianist left blind by a shooting accident; To Joy (1950) narrates the misfortunes of an ambitious violinist, and Summer Interlude (1951) recounts the life of a ballerina at the Stockholm Opera.  Generous excerpts from Beethoven, Mozart or Mendelssohn are found in these films.  In the opening feature of the celebrated “Faith Trilogy”, Through A Glass Darkly, the extensive use of classic compositions completely supplanted the original film music that was more common during the late 50’s period when Smiles of a Summer Night and Wild Strawberries appeared.  In Darkly the ‘Sarabande’ from Bach’s Cello Suite no. 2 appears four times.  It’s usage here signaled a marked upsurge in classical accompaniment all the way up to his final film Sarabande in 2003.  While it’s clear that a number of the pieces were vital structural and metaphorical components in his deep philosophical inquiries, there was a clear enough passion for the intrinsic beauty of the music that was deftly used as a mood device.  Robert Schumann’s ravishingly beautiful and gloriously romantic Piano Quintet in E-flat major set the tone for Fanny and Alexander under the film’s lengthy credit sequence, and underlined the film’s brighter contexts.  Conversely, there is telling use of Bach’s Partita in Shame, The Passion of Anna and Hour of the Wolf that connotes despair in its rawest constriction, and the Bach passages in Cries and Whispers are used to piercing effect.  Bergman connects characters to music a number of times, including the sequence in Autumn Sonata when Charlotte sketches the figure of Chopin, before beginning to play the Prelude, and the one where Johan listens at full blast to the scherzo of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony in Sarabande.  Lastly, Bergman experiments his sense of musical analysis during an entire film with In the Presence of a Clown, which recounts Schubert’s last days, in both a free and erudite manner. (more…)

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