Journeying through 1957, the year Bergman released two of his most acclaimed features (The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries), made a TV film and directed four plays for theatre, Magnusson...
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Journeying through 1957, the year Bergman released two of his most acclaimed features (The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries), made a TV film and directed four plays for theatre, Magnusson has amassed a wealth of archive and contemporary interviews, along with a fantastic selection of clips from his vast body of work.
This is a film for any Bergman fan to watch, but I am certain after seeing this almost perfect documentary that I am not a fan of his. I have often wondered why I have preferred several films of the early 1950's and not really liked much of his films after 1957. This is the year that the documentary chooses to see the ' great ' Ingmar Bergman films emerge such as ' The Seventh Seal ' and ' Wild Strawberries '. And it is this year that Bergman sees his power of director take hold of the cinematic world. He acts the great director afterwards, and his personal life, complicated though it was goes to the wall. Before continuing I want to mention the films I do admire; ' Summer Interlude '. ' Summer with Monika '. ' Journey into Autumn ' (Dreams) , ' Sawdust and Tinsel ' and above all ' Smiles of a Summer Night '. These are for me my preferences, but 1957 is the main year in this documentary and also his career afterwards. Watching I saw a dictator emerge, heavy on the drug of being so and using a lot of psychological torture towards the people around him. The documentary is not shy of his admiration for Hitler and his support for what Hitler did for Germany, and the appalling detail of how he cheered for him and raised his hand like the rest. This admiration he renounced a little too late for me and interestingly he abandoned a further political stance in life. Also the image of the great artist suffering a lot is bad romanticism, and ' sad ' though that may be does not justify making others suffer both in the theatre and for those in rehearsal for a film. As the documentary proceeded I realised that the humanity of the early films had somehow been diluted and unlike many I do not regard ' Persona ' as being great, and neither have I seen much to bow down to in ' Fanny and Alexander '. The films made in Germany are very bad indeed, although not mentioned except for the sickening but compulsively watchable ' From the Life of the Marionettes '. There his physical violence ( on film ) towards women becomes murderous. I give the documentary an 8 because I thought interviews with certain people were banal but will not mention names. I was tired by then of the crocodile tears and the adulations of certain actors towards his ' greatness '. But the film taught me yet again that more often than not the great artists in any field have feet of clay, and that adulation is just food to their masters of the world egos. A salutary warning for many who are adored for their work, and yes how they lead their lives is important. Any so called greatness should be put into perspective and this documentary succeeds, but not entirely and the ending is soft pedalled and I for one could not believe in the man. All the same I will return to those early films, and enjoy them for what they are.
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