Saturday, November 28, 2009

revisiting bergman

a few months, i revisited my first moment film snobbery and recently, i decided to continue my trip down memory lane. ingmar bergman and the seventh seal was the first art house movie i saw and from that moment i was hooked. i gobbled up bergman like leftover stuffing and soon i saw his entire catalog. over the years, i rewatched virtually all of his movies and maintained that i still love him. however, i realized i hadnt watched the original 5 hour versions of SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE or FANNY AND ALEXANDER; two of his most legendary works that when broadcast on PBS brought bergman back into the american movie going mind.

after watching versions that are some two hours longer than the movie releases, i was left wanting even more. scenes from a marriage is such a painful, excrusiatingly honest piece of film-making that it hurt me to watch at times. the story is very simple, two people's marriage is set up, ended, and somewhat reconciled many years later. the dialogue is so honest and real that it hardly seems like a movie. the arguments the two leads have resonates with married folks of all ages. btw, the two leads are erland josephson and liv ullman, two of bergman's regulars and its hard to believe that this was their first movie in which they shared more than a scene together.

for every bit as stark as scenes was, FANNY AND ALEXANDER is a lush, vibrant, and beautifully done masterpiece of a film. if scenes was a chamber drama, this was an epic. the film is about the ekdahl's, a family of actors whose patron dies suddenly leaving the theatre and family without a leader. fanny and alex, the two children, then have to live with a bishop who marries their mother in a house of strict punishment and complete religious piety. in the film version, what is most interesting is the depiction of the bishop. in the film version, he appears more evil but in the TV version he just appears to be very strict and unfair.

without question, my favorite part of any bergman movie is in fanny. not when uncle carl farts out a candle though that is pretty awesome. no, i am talking about the magic jew. erland josephson (again!) plays the said magic jew who is able to transport the goyem by shouting towards the heavens into a chest and then make them disappear. its an awesome scene and intentionally magically and mysterious. the film after all, is considered a fantasy.

both of these films were amazing outstanding works of art and if youre going to give them a watch, i recommend the original TV versions. they give you more incite the characters and to the story. and after all, more bergman is always gooder!