/* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";}     My respect and admiration for Ingmar Bergman's films is boundless.  No other's work penetrated or lingered as deeply.  External events impel internal journeys.  Who else did it so often and moved an international audience?  I learned of his death on a Monday morning.  The night before I was watching (again) his final film, "Saraband."  The nuanced lighting, plain composition and spare editing gave the characters no respite or reprieve.  For one character, death loomed.  In a signature Bergman monologue, he spoke of his crisis of faith.  When he finished, he found a reverie.  "Maybe it'll be easier than I thought.  I'll just step into it."  I held that image of Bergman at his end.   Bergman did what he loved most during a long life.  His creative output coincided with a window of time when the movie gods allowed the realization and distribution of his profoundly serious art.  His results confound anyone intimate with film production.  The contraptions, expense, and folderol of movie making convolute in ways that undermine performances aimed at intimacy or concentration.  Having crew, cast, gear and narrative work harmoniously, and absent off-screen tangles, is a dream rarely realized.  Bergman was without equal in achieving this time and again.  How curious that a Swedish director grabbed hold of me, a Midwestern kid, when I was 18.  As a freshman at the University of Northern Iowa, I saw my first Bergman film, "Through a Glass Darkly."  As happens to naive viewers of Bergman, the experience was unsettling and transfixing.  Afterward I walked around in a daze.  The need to talk led to revelation.  Bergman hit his popular and creative prime as I moved through early adulthood.  "Shame," "Passion of Anna," "Cries and Whispers," “Scenes from a Marriage” played on multiple screens in most American cities.  Hard to believe that when I attended a Wednesday showing of "Cries and Whispers" in Minneapolis, released three weeks earlier, I waited in line to get into a sold out house.  Years later, by Providence, I met the man.  Though notoriously fearful of travel, Bergman came to Dallas to accept the Meadows Award (and a large sum of kronors) from Southern Methodist University.  There he was with wife #5, affable and available in seminars with students for three days.  I attended every one and at one reception, we chatted.  To set the stage for his visit, SMU screened 25 of his films in the six weeks preceding his arrival.  I went to all.  Until then I’d never seen his comedies or romances.  They were as great as the psychodramas that followed.  My girlfriend had no prior exposure to Bergman.  She joined me for half of them.  For hours we talked about each film and not sadly.  We examined the relationships on the screen, connections to issues not on the screen, and personal reflections that the films provoked.  The films guided us to emotions and dreams which otherwise wouldn't have been expressed.   With eyes open, Bergman demonstrated what we'd rather dodge - the psychic tug-of-war with the reaper.  Given the despair and isolation of his characters, many saw fatalism at the core of Bergman's films. Bergman would say he was examining his demons.  My girlfriend and I would say his work permitted us to confess, to plead, to imagine what follows the stripping or breakdown of a soul.  In other words, his films could lead a couple to love.  During the months surrounding Bergman's visit we were never closer.  Films have changed.  They're digitized and democratized now.  Inexpensive cameras capture fine images regardless of found lighting.  Anyone with a PC and time on his hands is a moviemaker.  The longer I’ve been in the business, the fewer film people I meet who are enthused about Bergman's oeuvre.  There remains only a few feature directors who practice Bergman's style.  Bergman, Antonioni and their contemporaries came from writing and/or theatrical traditions.  Boffo directors today, especially Americans, are schooled in advertising, music-video, or fix-it-in-post traditions.  In Bergman's films, time's passage and emphasis were dictated by character.  Today they're shaped by testing audience cues.  In most current films, the accomplishments of various departments - cinematography, sound, art direction, special effects, post production - are better than ever.  Seen in a good theater, the quality and sophistication are astonishing.  But Bergman and his team devoted energy and soul elsewhere - to script and performance at the moment of capture.  Post production was assemblage.  Their feats of bravery and authenticity are now passé.  The audience is gone.  My good fortune was to be there when Bergman was alive and at his fullest.      Ted Samore ©2007   
prev / next