Archive for June 17th, 2020

 © 2020 by James Clark


    The films of Ingmar Bergman have elicited from his loyalists a bemusing history. At the point where a consensus about the remarkableness of his skills and heart was at full tide, there also began to occur some battle fatigue in face of waves of other demanding presences of his. A pantheon readily arose, by way of influential critics who jumped to the idea that the mother lode had been reached and that the latter flood was secondary and not worth the strain. That Bergman began to produce films by way of television, also seemed a sign of losing it. (Also a sign of the viewers’ easily losing it, was the myopia about films predating 1957, regarded, if at all, as quirkily overreaching.)

For what it might have meant, the television series of Scenes from a Marriage (1973) became a last hiccup before finding other entertainments to go with popcorn. The soap opera (with a difference), in question, displays a couple of patricians and their on-again, off-again liaison, ad nauseam. But Bergman-being-Bergman, he inserts another couple, very different from the silver spoons. The protagonists host a dinner party for their friends, Peter and Katarina, who proceed to humiliate each other. After the hosts are rid of them, they stage a rededication to their superiority. “Peter and Katarina don’t speak the same language. We speak the same language…” Peter and Katarina, played by different actors, in German rather than Swedish, resurface in the 1980 film, From the Life of the Marionettes, in order to elaborate what heterogeneity can look like and feel like. Peter, another silver spoon, manages to remain another Peter Pan. His malaise with a Katarina drawn from one of his staffers, drives him to butcher a prostitute, perform necrophilia upon her and end up in a mental hospital holding his teddy bear. His wife is left to be an adult. Few of the original loyalists would have seen this film. Too bad, because it’s easily as brilliant as Scenes from a Marriage and any of the other films thought to be great.

The immediate shock, so unlike Bergman’s usual sophisticated procedure, signals, I think, a new form of traction bidding to surmount the dilemmas of a perverse planet. Doing something that new, the project would suggest, might occasion a rich departure. (more…)

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