This is a film about a film. About, perhaps, the most outstanding film ever made. Bergman exudes his directorial artistry not being completely aware of it. He is at work, doing his thing, perfectly concentrated on the film this film is about.
The camera doing the second work -that is, Bergman's work, is unobtrusive, delicate and tells a completely different story. That may be the strongest point of all this. This film tells the story of how Bergman made the film of his life, his masterpiece. It's not technical. It's not flashy, nor spectacular. It's just the real story of how things worked throughout this extremely complicated and dark story: Bergman's life seen through the eyes of Alexander.
Here we find how Ingmar directed his actors. How he related to his friend and lifelong Director of Photography, Sven Nyvqyst. How he could leave things to others with complete confidence on their competence. How Nyvqyst used lighting, and how
decisions were made through the completion of a huge, long and demanding film.
If you are a film fan, even if you don't know Bergman, you'll find out why European cinema is much more elaborate in its story telling than the typical American film. This is not a director who wants to be on Time's cover. This is the story of how one man who loved theatre as well as film, who was himself an actor, who understood the deep emotions he wanted the audience to submerge in, did a work of art over, maybe, any other in the history of film making. I know this may sound quite cliche. If you can, try to find the five-hour DVD edition of the film, and then watch this one. You will never forget the experience.
One thing must be clear: if you are the "American Dream" kind of film fan, forget about even trying to feel comfortable with Bergman's films. They are overtly awkward compared with the straightforwardness of the typical american storytelling.
If you want more on Bergman, find his interview with a Swedish TV interviewer, talking about life, death and love. A one-hour feast, packed with the Criterion Collection's edition of Cries & Whispers. Worth every penny, too.
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