Academic journal article Framework

Artistic Testament or Final Exorcism? Passion and Tragedy in Bergman's Saraband

Academic journal article Framework

Artistic Testament or Final Exorcism? Passion and Tragedy in Bergman's Saraband

Article excerpt

To my wife, Celia

Watching forty years of my work over the span of one year [for the accomplishment of this book] turned out to be unexpectedly upsetting, at times unbearable. I suddenly realized that my movies had mostly been conceived in the depths of my soul, in my heart, my brain, my nerves, my sex, and not to the least, in my guts.

Ingmar Bergman

These words sum up Bergman's attitude and disposition toward his work. I am not interested here in emphasizing the instinctive component in the Swedish master's expressive creation but simply in pointing out the rawness, intensity, and forcefulness in his way of exploring human conflicts, in his way of facing the real-which, incidentally, has been the main reason why his oeuvre exemplifies an authorial paradigm of modern cinema. This visceral profundity-not exempt from a certain inclination to morbidity-compels him to take on unfailingly personal and autobiographical subjects-and it could not be otherwise. He is the filmmaker par excellence of the inner life, intimacy, private confessions, the most inexpressible fears and sentiments such as life, death, love, hate, anguish, or insanity. Hence, all Bergman's films are articulated from a particular degree or intensity with the actor and the scene: the face or countenance, the state of mind, the emotions and affections, the body and its fluids. In short, his cinema is a sort of exorcism-which in this respect bonds naturally to (and to his) theater: "Only a few cineastes have used in the same way the cinematographic medium like an instrument of self-examination, of selftherapy in order to conjure up the past and to wash oneself from guilt."1

His last film, Saraband (SE/DK/NO/IT/FI/DE, 2003), does not elude the personal, intense constellation of the Bergmanesque world. On the contrary, it is increased exponentially. It might be considered as a perfect distillation of his entire oeuvre since it configures a testament work carried out with an impeccable sense of synthesis and depuration. Along with Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander (SE/FR/DE, 1982), Saraband could perfectly be seen as a diptych on the grounds of its neat autobiographical status; for epitomizing his entire work and also for having been conceived as a testament announced by its creator, which in this case actually turned out to be his last farewell.

Since Bergman announced in 1982 his "official" farewell to cinema, much has been written about this ineffable declaration as he continued to make films for television. From that moment, each new work called into question his declaration, and each could even be interpreted in connection with that turning point. Bergman, however, never betrayed himself because his valediction, motivated by physical and mental exhaustion, referred basically to the film industry. Fanny and Alexander, conceived as a TV miniseries and then released in a shorter version for cinema exhibition, was effectively his last commercial feature film, the most expensive production in Sweden to that time, and the last of his films he promoted at the most renowned international film festivals. In the twenty years between these two paradigmatic films, secluded in his house of Fårö, Bergman never stopped writing, shooting, and of course directing theater at the Dramaten in Stockholm. Apart from his theatrical work, he published his autobiography (The Magic Lantern, 1987); wrote screenplays for Bille August (Den goda viljan/The Best Intentions, SE/DE/UK/IT/FR/DK/FI/NO/IS, 1991), his son Daniel (Söndagsbarn/Sunday's Children, SE/DK/FI/IS/NO, 1992), and Liv Ullmann (Enskilda samtal/ Private Confessions, SE/NO/DK/FI, 1996, and Trolösa/Faithless, SE/NO/FI/ IT/DE, 2000); and directed five splendid minimalist TV films with his reduced, familiar troupe of actors and technicians, enjoying even more creative freedom than in the luxurious Fanny and Alexander: Efter repetitionen/ After the Rehearsal (SE, 1984),2 De två saliga/The Blessed Ones (SE/UK/DK/AT/ IT/NL/DE/FI, 1986), Sista skriket/The Last Scream (SE, 1995), Larmar och gör sig till/In the Presence of a Clown (SE/DK/NO/IT/FI/DE, 1997), and Bildmakarna/ The Image Makers (SE, 2000). …

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