Ingmar Bergman passed away on July 30 of last year, the same day as Italy’s Michelangelo Antonioni. The world has been mourning for the losses ever since in the form of retrospectives and festivals. Starting today at Spot — Taipei Film House (光點—台北之家), POP Cinema (國民戲院) presents 15 films made by Bergman, many of which are early works that have never before been screened in Taiwan.
Openly acknowledging that his experiences with women, frustrated marriages and family life were the source of inspiration behind his works, the Swedish maestro showed an early interest in the motif of love and betrayal in films such as It Rains on Our Love (1946), To Joy (1950), Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) and Summer With Monika (1953).
In The Seventh Seal (1957), Through a Glass Darkly (1960) and The Virgin Spring (1960), Bergman embarks on an existential journey into mortality and faith, a leitmotif he is best-remembered for, in a world of despair and bleakness.
The imagery of four women strolling through a Swedish forest is immortalized in Cries and Whispers (1973), the director’s homage to his mother, incarnated by three sisters and a servant. His most beloved film, Fanny and Alexander (1982), can be seen as the sum total of the director’s art as it is here that Bergman returned to the most familiar themes — death, religion, family and the memory of his father.
To festival curator Wang Pai-chang (王派章), however, it is the The Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969) that occupy a key place in Bergman’s art, along with his 1966 masterpiece Persona. The trio signals the maestro’s inclination toward an image-driven aesthetic, whereas most of his popular films appropriate a more melodramatic look to explore such topics as marriage, gender relationships and family.
“Even in his early works, Bergman reveals a genius for expressing an event or emotion through visuals rather than narrative. To me, it is where the power of his art lies,” Wang said.
For Bergman novices there is no need to despair if the initial reaction to the movies includes adjectives such as “obscure” and “abstruse.” Even the young Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) had to see them more than once in order to understand the Swedish director’s films, which in Hou’s words, “dare to venture into the deepest part of the soul.”
The gray-haired Hou attended a press conference earlier this month to promote the event as the Honorary President of the Taiwan Film and Culture Association (台灣電影文化協會), the group behind POP Cinema.
“When I was young I saw Bergman’s films on Beta videotapes. It was pretty much the same scenes and characters so you fell asleep, woke up and fell asleep again,” Hou said. “To me, all directors are much more interesting in their early works. The older you get, the more mannered your films become as you find the earlier ‘you’ too immature and lean more toward abstractionism. This is why I think cinema belongs to the young — unlike words, images should be flesh-and-blood and visceral.”
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