Archive for September 18th, 2019

© 2019 by James Clark

       I kicked off the Bergman trilogy comprising the films, Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1969) and The Passion of Anna (1969), by way of Shame. But one could start anywhere here, inasmuch as all three of them represent a steep ascent toward—not the famous “silence of God”—but the long-hidden finality of death as tempering the farce of advantage. There was the attraction, in Shame, for its fulsome violence and its unspoken (forgotten) heresy, buried by a world-history crazily intent upon becoming iconic, even if tiny.

We’ll pick up from there, by another very humbled figure, namely, Alma, the wife of a rather well-known and admired painter, Johan Borg, in the film, Hour of the Wolf. Unlike the forgetting of that unfamiliar reflection, in Shame, Alma has incorporated a degree of disinterestedness being the gem of the aforementioned film. But, like Eva-the-forgetful, Alma, remarkably warm though she could be, there was about her a striking inefficiency, a decorative tip of an iceberg—while the full accomplishment remained a huge oblivion. Whereas the opening of Shame adopted an almost sit-com miasma, here instead, what we  experience, and yet being far from the depths of creative magic and profound joy, is a punishing, but soft, third-degree. “Listen, we’re not quite finished yet… No? Alright…”

“Alright” takes off with Alma’s telling the camera and us, in flashback, of the shocking death of Johan; and her inability to keep him in one piece. She begins by emerging from her thatch-roofed, wood-framed cottage, with head bowed and tired eyes. Having already made to the world the details of her telling, this would be an investigatory journalist’s follow-up, in hopes that the disaster could provide more cogency. “I’ve given you the diary. And you wonder why I choose to stay here? We’ve lived in this house almost seven years. Come winter, I can come to the mainland, work at the store as I have done when money was short. The baby is due in a month. The doctor examined me in May, before the very last time we came out here. We’d planned to stay here until August. We were going to be completely alone… He was afraid… He liked that I was quiet…” Then, on the heels of that jumble of tenses, she abruptly delineates (in flash-back), how they had commissioned a small power boat and driven to their island hideaway. The arrival is shown to be touched by murky light not without a harsh beauty. This positive moment links to the boat of death, in Shame. Ebb and flow of engaging challenge. “We found a wheelbarrow in a shed on the beach. When we got here, we were happy to see the apple tree in bloom. Then we discovered footprints under the kitchen window in the flower bed, but forgot it.” (Long pause, in which the investigator could begin to discern that the quiet ones are also stupid ones.) “Yes, we were happy… Johan was uneasy.” (What sort of logic do they subscribe to? Probably a logic not far from that of Eva and Jan, in Shame.) “He always grew anxious when his work did not go well, and it had not gone well for some time now.” (The same precious and unscrupulous aesthetic, from the violinists’, in Shame?) “And he became sleepless. He was frightened, as if he was afraid of the dark. It had gotten worse in the last few years.” The decisive prow of the thrust of Johan and Alma’s boat brings to the story a baseline of decisiveness which awaits them, and all of us. Johan launches the returning driver with clear-enough decisiveness. He gathers his baggage—including, many frames waiting for successful performances—and grimly moves a pushcart to the cottage over very difficult terrain. In the arrival with its delight in the apple tree, she rushes to embrace Johan wholeheartedly; and receives a half-hearted buss and then a brush-off as he heads indoors distractedly and with a sour visage. Next day, he proposes drawing her; and the precious, nineteen-century proceedings seem to lack the promise of shoring up a tired routine. The white sheets blowing wildly on the line near the exercise to shake things up loom as an embarrassment and a warning. Was the second investigation alert to such matters? (more…)

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