Sunday, November 14, 2010

#208: A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

(Ingmar Bergman, 1961-63)

The trilogy of faith divides Bergman's career. The Silence feels to me like the first film of the second half of his life. Just as Sawdust and Tinsel had kernels of the themes that would be explored in films like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, and The Virgin Spring, The Silence is a starting point for the explorations of family, jealousy, and the passage of time as it relates to relationships that Bergman would delve further into with Scenes From a Marriage, Cries and Whispers, and the film that was most obviously influenced by this one, Persona.

Part of the appeal and revolutionary nature of the set is that it is looking forward to these films much more than it is looking backward, and this seems like the real benefit of the trilogy for Bergman. As the trilogy evolves, Bergman sheds many of the questions which had dogged him throughout his career. This break is not just thematic, but technical as well. While Bergman and Sven Nykvist had already worked together, this trilogy is really where their work began to bear fruit. Bergman's directing is also much more dynamic throughout the trilogy, both with the camera and with actors.

And yet watching Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie makes it entirely clear that Bergman wasn't thinking about this dynamic in any way, and in fact wasn't even thinking of a trilogy when he made these films. This kind of makes it even more interesting, as the themes that run between the films are so similar - most notably the manner of God's silence and his appearance as a spider. The philosophical arc of the films is incredibly powerful despite a lack of specific planning on Bergman's part (though certainly intentional continuation of his themes). This outside intention in no way impacts the immediate reactions to the films. All three films are extremely powerful, and taken together they are particularly affecting. I highly recommend them to anyone who has thoughtfully considered the nature of God and their own relationship to both personal and organized religion.

Links to individual reviews:
Through a Glass Darkly
Winter Light
The Silence
Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie

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