Archive for October 10th, 2018


© 2018 by James Clark

      In some ways, the output of films by Ingmar Bergman could be called an early rendition of serial drama, minus the TV and plus the theatrical rhetoric. That medieval couplet, The Seventh Seal (1957), and, The Virgin Spring (1960), introduces an “impossible” and necessary “trick,” pertaining to acrobatics and juggling. And the rest is about how the hell it’s done.

The weighty reflective saga therewith, coincides, for us in the new millennium, with a film market allergic to “weighty reflective sagas.” Getting on with bucket lists becomes a particularly insidious concern, insofar as the temptation to dip into a so-called masterpiece (and nothing else) is exactly anathematic to the tenor of the work. This difficulty requires an acrobatic feat in order to prime the spectacle to its best futurity. Included in this maneuver, therefore—and we have to admit that even in the 1960’s when the supposed Mona Lisa, namely, Persona (1966), was making some noise, no one, including Woody Allen, had a serious clue—would be pretty much disregarding the pretenders and watching for the few who well know what investigative popularity is worth on this questionable planet.

Persona is not a one-off and any effort to approach it that way is doomed. The opening passage of the film entails a young, bespectacled boy, played by child actor, Jorgen Lindstrom. His action spans a corpse in a morgue and a fervent stroking of a large portrait of a beautiful woman’s face. In the film, The Silence (1963), that same child, called Johan, encounters, with those same schoolboy, round-lens glasses, turbulence in trying to come to a harmony with his attractive, dangerously reckless mother; and, as a default choice, his beautiful, careful aunt. The painful and obscure action of Persona cannot come to coherence in the absence of a rigorous examination of The Silence. As it happens, Elisabet, the protagonist of Persona and a famous stage actress, stages a many-months refusal to speak and refusal to deal with her husband and son—sharply curtailing her paying career but getting down to business with the unfinished business of reckless, elusive Anna, in the film of three years before, where interplay shatters upon irreconcilable intentions. Whereas Anna shoots the works and hopes for serendipity, Elisabet, the occupier of designs, has a plan. Seemingly inert, particularly at the first stages when she is bedridden, she will soon  be more overtly acrobatic, in her own eccentric ways. Moreover, despite Olympian disdain, she will, with characteristic undemonstrativeness, endeavor to put into play a juggling act whereby seemingly errant trajectories become welcomed constituents.

In order to fathom this peculiar action, we must highlight, in the spirit of the four Bergman films we have touched upon in previous blogs, the remarkable cinematic physicality raining down upon figures whom the unwary might assume to be in the midst of a fairly common medical treatment regime. That prelude, locating the same player in two films, has been designed as an introduction of the dynamics of the cosmos (which humans play an important part in), not the kick-off of a melodrama of rational souls being troubled and thereby—hopefully—rescued. One close look at the abysses of this storm, and the idea of rescue has been obviated. (The continuity of risk-takers having reached a showdown whereby a new plateau of outrageousness must be explored comprises the real “narrative” here, and everywhere Bergman chooses to aim. The Silence and Persona constitute a conclave of badass mommies fumbling the gentle love intrinsic  to their heresies. So, too, Claire Denis, carrying the Bergman crisis in our century, with, for instance, her White Material.) (more…)

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