Ingmar Bergman Passes
Ingmar Bergman passed away last night. He was 89. There were still small art house theatres in Coloma, Kamazoo and Grand Rapids when I first saw Cries and Whispers, The Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring and my favorite, Fanny and Alexander. His film of The Magic Flute put me to sleep, not because it was dull but because I'd just worked two midnight shifts without sleep and the pretty music and the images entered my dreams.
Fanny and Alexander showed me a film with as many different textures as a novel. Cries and Whispers looks like an Edvard Munch block print brought to life. Virgin Spring is as disturbing as Rorschach's Journal in Watchmen and tells some of the same secrets that might not be good for you.
When I despair in teaching, or more commonly, want to give up on a personal writing project, there's something Bergman said about adding one little stone to the cathedral that makes me get up and go back to chip, chip, chipping away. I've had a paperback script of the Seventh Seal on my shelf for more than thirty years now, given me as a birthday present by the late Dave Pschigoda, and now that I want to quote from the introduction, I find I've given it to Jef Burnham. This is right and proper in the scheme of transmitting civilization, but a damn nuisance when you want to quote something exactly and Jef's still asleep in Chicago. Happily, someone quoted it online:
"There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lighting and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuilt the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed - master builders, artists, laborers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.
Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. regardless of whether I believe or not; whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of a cathedral."