Monday, July 30, 2007

You with your visions and dreams.


News of the death of Ingmar Bergman naturally conjurs images of Bengt Ekerot leading a party of dead souls as they dance across a starkly beautiful countryside; the late director was responsible for the most unforgettable modern representation of death, and he surely knew images of the chess-playing reaper would accompany his passing. Equally eloquent to me is the chimes that signal various transitions in Cries and Whispers. It's a breathtakingly brilliant device, the passage of time towards an inevitable conclusion stripped of all human speculation and reduced to a single, quiet sound that is at both familiar and alien - it is the sound of the unknown.

Bergman's chime rang today; he leaves behind a wealth of great cinema that returns again and again to his preoccupations - the topography of the human face and the mysteries it conceals, the inexplicable power of our sexual desire and our very need to connect, the transcendence of performance (theater being as important to the director as film), the question of how to live in a universe ruled by an unseen or nonexistent God. And, of course, death, and how the knowledge of our mortality informs our existence. His films are alternately passionate and remote, cynical and nostalgic, unsparing and almost unbearably humane. And while his worldview was unflinchingly bleak, I value most greatly his films' capacity for almost supernatural acts of compassion - the scene in Cries and Whispers where Anna cradles the dying Agnes has a transcendent power that cinema has rarely touched. How beautifully ironic that a man who struggled so greatly with the meaning of his own existence would, in his passing, remind us how much one life can mean to the world. And that, as I'm sure Bergman would reluctantly agree, is its own kind of magic.

6 comments:

Milena said...

You really brought tears to my eyes with this article. Beautifully written and so true.

Milena said...

I have sad news again. Antonioni died! This is just too much...

Bemis said...

This is just brutal.

Milena said...

Yes, within one day... It is so sad, not one, but two master filmmakers, two of the greatest living legends... I can't believe it. I know they were old, but still...the same day. Bizarre. I am so saddened. I spoke a lot about them lately, and about Wenders, mentioning that cinema still has several masters that are actually alive etc. As I'm truly getting superstitious I can but to hope that all is fine with Wenders!

Bemis said...

Yeah, this might be a good time for Wenders (and Werner Herzog and David Lynch, and Wong kar-wai for safe measure) to stop by the doctor's office for a check-up.

Paul C. said...

I'm most worried about Godard, truth be told. Supposedly he's been dealing with cancer for the past few years, although Godard being Godard, he's just kept chugging along. With Bergman and Antonioni gone, and previously Fellini and Truffaut, Godard is the last of the giants of sixties world cinema.