The rants and raves of a teenage cinephile who is just a little bit obsessed with Catherine O'Hara and Hayao Miyazaki.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two by Ingmar Bergman

I have a sad confession to make - before this past week, I had never seen a single film by Ingmar Bergman. While browsing the library of the Banff Centre (where I am currently doing mad piano stuff) I came upon a large collection of his films, and realized that it was time. So, here are my thoughts on two of his films.

Persona (1966)
I'm a big fan of "Mulholland Dr." (which was influenced by this classic), so obviously I would end up liking this mind-bending tale of two women whose personas begin to meld. Bibi Andersson's performance is really quite something to behold. She gives her character everything that it needs from beginning to end.

Additionally, many of the cinematic techniques that Bergman uses are just hauntingly good. The frightening montage of disturbing images at the beginning is perfect for setting up the mood of the film, and some of the influential imagery (like the melding of the two faces) is just monumental. It's amazing how Bergman gets into the heads of these characters in just about 80 minutes. A haunting piece that still lingers in my mind.

Autumn Sonata (1978)
This film is a simply beautiful piece of work that truly gets under the skin of two very complicated characters, and shows how a mother and daughter can truly destroy each other. Liv Ullman and especially Ingrid Bergman both give appropriately lauded performances. Both of them know when their characters need to lie to give the impression of happiness, and it is simple brilliance.

I think I preferred this to "Persona" simply because I was more easily able to relate to it. Obviously the fact that the movie had to do with a concert pianist helps, but it's also interesting because it does show what a performer has to give up to achieve success. It's an excrutiating career, that can take a toll on even those you love the most.

By the way, amazing, AMAZING performance by Lena Nyman. I know it's the same old mental-disability thing that everyone would consider Oscar bait, but she does it so well and with so much sensitivity. At first I questioned the manipulative nature of using a mentally disabled girl as a plot point, but Bergman definitely makes it work. Oh, and beautiful cinematography as well.

In both of these films, I find it fascinating how Bergman studies the way that human beings put on a facade in order to appear "all right" for those who they want to satisfy, and how this false display of contentment hurts more often than it helps. Instead of honesty, we lie to those we love and it frays relations to the utmost. Both of these two Bergman classics examine such complex human relationships in such different ways, with compact skill and brilliant acting.

I can't believe I've missed out on the work of this genius for so long.

What are your thoughts on these two films, and Ingmar in general? Do you love him, or are you one of his dissenters (are there any? please speak up if you are one!)?


  1. I should check Persona since I am also a big fan of Mulholland Dr. Thanks for making the similarity apparent :)


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