Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs

By Egil Törnqvist | Go to book overview

Strindberg, Storm (1960)

In the spring of 1955, Victor Sjöström, the grand old man of Swedish silent cinema, performed one of his last stage roles, that of the Gentleman in Strindberg's Storm ( 1907). 1 Two and a half years later, Wild Strawberries had its world premiere. The lead was played by Victor Sjöström, his very last role.

About two years after this, Ingmar Bergman launched his TV production of Storm. 2 The performance met with great enthusiasm among the critics. A Danish critic called it a milestone in the history of the teleplay and even went so far as to claim that not until now, when shown on the small screen, had Strindberg's chamber play fully come into its own. 3

It is well-known that Bergman's chamber films in the 1960s have an affinity with Strindberg's chamber plays. It is less well-known that Wild Strawberries in many ways resembles the first of the chamber plays. 4 In the following, Bergman's production of Strindberg's Storm will be examined with special attention to its relationship to Wild Strawberries.

Both the Gentleman in Storm and Isak Borg are old men with unhappy marriages behind them. Preparing themselves for the final rest, they long for "the peace of old age," to quote the Gentleman's reiterated phrase. Both imagine that they have reached a stage in life where loneliness, as a preparation for the ultimate loneliness, can be calmly accepted. Both live in apartment houses, surrounded by other people. And both have a housekeeper, who obviously functions as a substitute wife. In short, both men lead an existence bordering on that of a hermit, a choice indicative of their vacillating attitude to loneliness and togetherness, respectively. Like the Gentleman, Isak has the habit of strolling "along a broad, tree-lined boulevard," another indication that both of them cherish a flaneur existence of observation, of noninvolvement.

Both men are self-centred and highly subjective. Yet both Strindberg and Bergman disguise this initially by having us share the protagonist's point of view. For a long time we tend to side with the Gentleman against his wife Gerda -- until we discover in the course of the play that he gives different reasons for his divorce from her. It is only after we have come to doubt his judgement that Strindberg has the Brother, his closest friend, reveal that neither Gerda nor her new husband are as wretched as the Gentleman would have us, or rather himself, believe. Then comes the Brother's weighty remark: "You only see things from your viewpoint." Suddenly we realize that the Gentleman has

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Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • PROLOGUE 9
  • PART 1 THE STAGE DIRECTOR 21
  • Strindberg, the Dream Play (1970) 23
  • Strindberg, the Ghost Sonata (1973) 30
  • Strindberg, Miss Julie (1985) 46
  • O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (1988) 59
  • Ibsen, a Doll's House (1989) 69
  • Shakespeare, the Winter's Tale (1994) 81
  • PART 2 THE SCREEN DIRECTOR 93
  • The Seventh Seal (1957) 95
  • Wild Strawberries (1957) 112
  • Strindberg, Storm (1960) 128
  • Persona (1966) 137
  • Cries and Whispers (1973) 146
  • Autumn Sonata (1978) 160
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982) 174
  • PART 3 THE RADIO DIRECTOR 189
  • Strindberg, Easter (1952) 191
  • A Matter of the Soul (1990) 195
  • EPILOGUE 199
  • Notes 213
  • Selected Bibliography 226
  • List of Illustrations 231
  • Index 233
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