Either way, I wouldn’t stop loving his films. But this thought keeps popping up in my head.
What do you mean by “middlebrow”?
I’m sitting there trying to get through Scene from a Marriage, which I’m actually enjoying, but man there’s a lot of talking in this film. Did Bergman direct anything for the stage? I feel like the last two films I’ve seen of his (Scenes of a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander) would’ve been fine plays.
Sorry, that’s not really the topic at hand – this is just in my head since I’m currently watching the film.
So yeah, can you go into some detail as to what specifically you’re thinking? Bergman is on my mind so I’m willing to talk about him!
Your instinct is correct, Fredo. Bergman originally worked in the theatre and did over a hundred stage productions through his entire career.
@Fredo – Yes, in fact, Bergman did direct for the stage. He even indicated at times in interviews that he was more interested in directing plays than films. If I remember correctly he went on his 25 year film directing hiatus in part because he wanted to focus more on theatre. Someone with a better knowledge of Bergman will either confirm or deny that assertion, but they won’t deny that he loved the theatre and worked in it regularly.
Scorsese is definitely high-brow
Bergman could then be seen as middle-brow
And Michael Bay is definitely low-brow
Well that explains EVERYTHING. And he took 25 years off of directing film? I didn’t know that either. I really know very little about this Bergman fellow.
I’m two hours into Scenes from a Marriage and all I keeping is, “Where’s the cinema in this?” I don’t mean this in the derogatory, only that it feels like a stage play not a film. I wonder why he directed film at all? What did he feel he got out of making a film that couldn’t be satisfied on stage? It seems to me that what he’s most interested in is better suited for the stage. I can certainly see why he would say he was more interested in directing plays. But I’ve only seen four of his films so I may be rushing to judgement.
Fredo, What it comes down to is movies last forever. I feel that when Bergman felt he had something really special he wanted it to be seen by more people and chose to make it into a movie, hence The Seventh Seal starting as a play, but once it got really good he turned it into a movie. Its just a guess.
Can you specify what about it isn’t cinematic? Last Tango in Paris is basically two people talking in a room, and I would never say that film isn’t cinematic. Film can bring an intimacy to dialogue intensive movies that theater cannot. In theater, the second balcony creates an emotional distance that can only be bridged with body language, story, and sound. People used to say, “Let’s go listen to a play”, we say “Let’s go watch a movie.” In film, we may be listening to interesting dialogue, but we are looking at a pair of eyes. That’s all we need, and that’s one element that officially separates film from theater. Bergman believed that everything we need to know was located on the actor’s face, and (with the necessary caveats) I tend to agree with him.
By the way, I’m not denigrating theater at all. Theater is physically alive in a way that cinema cannot be. In cinema, the screen leaves the audience as voyeurs, not participants. A theatrical audience lives the piece, feels the tension drop out of the room, directs the actor’s performance, and sometimes is even an active participant. Theater is a living organism, and its beauty lies in its ephemeral, fleeting, “there and gone” nature. Every performance is singularly unique. Theater can explore verbal and expressionistic metaphors with little restraint. Cinema inevitably is hampered by the realism of the image.
Fredo,if you don’t like Bergman’s 2-3 more films you’ll watch,i suggest you not only avoid Bergman,but also Visconti,you’ll probably hate him too(and i’m saying it with the best of intentions because i love these fellas..)
by the way,both Bergman and Visconti have directed opera works,besides plays….
I can’t talk about Visconti because I have only seen The Leopard (why is this the only one I have seen???? it is one of my favorite films!), but I feel this film is very cinematic.
@Scooter – When I say they’re not cinematic, I’m talking specifically about Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander (to a lesser extent) and not any of his other films, since I haven’t seen them. Scenes from a Marriage is shot extremely conventional and I’ve actually been paying close attention to the camera work and when there are cuts and trying to figure out why he cuts when he does. Essentially my feeling is that Bergman could’ve just placed the camera on sticks, slapped on a wide lens and let the scene play out until the film runs out. He doesn’t cut very often and a lot of times it “feels” arbitrary (whether it actually is or not I have no way of knowing), which would explain why there are so many jump cuts. I’m not a big fan of Mamet’s directing philosophy but I will say that Bergman doesn’t show the information in the cut, he shows it in the shot. That essential is what I mean when I say “uncinematic.” If you show something in the shot, that’s something you can achieve in theater; but showing information in the cut, that’s something that can only be done in cinema (we all know about Eisenstein and montage, etc.).
I’m not trying to say this sucks or Bergman is a bad director or any of that. Every film I’ve seen of his I’ve liked more than the previous one (there are a lot of things in Scenes from a Marriage I’m really responding to) so this is not a criticism so much as it’s an observation of an approach he’s taking. And the fact that he had so much experience on the stage explains a lot, particularly because he writes his own material. Obviously not all theater directors who become film directors have films that feel like plays – but people like Lumet and Nichols directed films that were written by other people and therefore had the benefit of directing a script from a screenwriters mind, not a playwright’s mind.
Hopefully that answers your question, Scooter. I agree with you, dialogue alone is not necessarily uncinematic – it can be quite cinematic actually.
By the way, I totally hijacked this thread and I didn’t mean to.
Wait Fredo, I guess I can see what your saying about SfaM, but with Fanny and Alexander I don’t understand. That film could not be done as a play, and is one of the most cinematic films ever. It has easily my favorite group of cuts (the Ismael, sick sister, dieing stepfather cuts) in any film.
Ok you might be right about that. But I needed another example besides Scenes from a Marriage to support my hypothesis (to make it seem more plausible) so let’s just pretend Fanny & Alexander is a play!
hahaha,what is most peculiar here is that Fanny and Alexander is not THE ultimate work of Bergman,so it’s probably the one in favor of people who don’t appreciate Bergman..
and Fredo,every director creates similar shots or visualizations film by film,look at Welles,look at Bunuel or Griffith,the difference lies in details,the main themes are constantly visible,just like philosophers,painters,every artists,their conceptions remain the same but the alterations give the delicious taste..
Drew,believe it or not,i’ve seen from Senso to Bellisima and Death at Venice,but not Leopard YET!!!! :P
I haven’t seen those films in so long I can’t really make a valid defense of them. In his other films (the Silence of God trilogy, Wild Strawberries, Seventh Seal, etc.), Bergman’s choices are anything but arbitrary. You’ll marvel at the lighting alone for hours, I promise you.
Fredo, That just won’t do, I apologize. You must officially take back your statement, and call a press conference to make an official apology. I just find it funny of all the films to pick, why F&A? It is seriously the film I think of when someone says cinematic.
Dimitris, Umm why is F&A not THE ultimate Bergman work? Also you must see The Leopard as soon as possible. Tonight would be ideal but I will settle for tomorrow.
The Faith Trilogy is really excellent. I always find myself unable to choose between The Seventh Seal and the Faith Trilogy for my favourite Bergman product.
hahaha,i really need to download it,but i don’t know if the torrent will be ready until after a week ;) but i will see it because it’s one of the Visconti films am dying to watch,same goes for The Damned..
Fanny and Alexander is a swan song(according to Bergman,he did proclaim it the last film he’ll ever make,his retirement afterwards led him to direct tv films..),and swan songs might be considered important(Obscure Object of Desire by Bunuel)and stylistic(Sleuth by Mankiewicz)but in no way the epitome of a director’s body of work..
mind you,i truly admire it,haven’t seen the 5-hour version of it but i will eventually,still…when one mentions Bergman to me,i mostly remember him from films like Summer with Monika,Persona,Silence,Strawberries,Smiles of a Summer Night and more..
Fanny is of the last films when it comes to my head…
“haven’t seen those films in so long I can’t really make a valid defense of them”
@Scooter – You don’t need to defend them. I’m not criticizing them, I’m merely making an observation which I intend to be neutral.
Dimitris, I think it represents a combination between everything Bergman has learned and everything left that he wants to tell, and results in his best work.
if we were to believe it for Bunuel and Mankiewicz as well,we would consider Golden Age and All About Eve to be inferior works :)
it is subjective after all but i cannot accept that Fanny overcomes even Wild Strawberries…
Dimitris, I’m not saying with all directors (obviously), but with Bergman because he chose this film to end on instead of death doing that.
Can I also add since no one responded to it, that I quite enjoyed Bob’s joke.
Bob’s joke was something I enjoyed too. Bob remains one of my top 10 favourite posters on this site.
I think you picked the wrong Bergman films to start with. Scenes and F & A are very late Bergman works and to me they don’t have the same intensity as his earlier works. To me there are four Bergman film categories, what I call his " early period" in which you Bergman’s films before Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. Then after that you have the “symbolic period” which you have Wild Strawberries and the Seventh Seal and a few others. Then after that you have the “Spider Trilogy” or the “Silence of God Trilogy”… to me that’s when things get interesting. You have The Silence, Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light, in these three films is where you really begin to see the essence of what the Bergman intellect/experience is all about. Then after that you have a range of films including Cries and Whispers, Persona, Autumn Sonata, Shame, Ana’s Passion etc.
Then you have what was meant to be Bergman’s last works, two television series that were later cut into very long films so that they could make money in the USA, those two series are, Fanny and Alexander and Scenes From a Marriage. By the way Fredo if you are watching Scenes from a Marriage or F & A in film form stop right now. Watching the film version of those two works is like watching David Lynch’s Dune.
In conclusion, I would recommend you forget F & A and Scenes and go back to Strawberries/Seventh Seal or better yet The Spider Trilogy. Bergman’s career is one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed in my life. Specially when he takes off after Strawberries and The Seventh Seal, after that you basically have surprise after surprise and its just a joy to witness such talent.
My favorites are the Silence of God Trilogy, Cries and Whispers, Autumn Sonata, and Persona. Persona is extremely interesting, if you liked L’ Aventura then you’ll love Persona. After that I would recommend Scenes from a Marriage and Saraband which actually go together. Saraband is the conclusion to Scenes, and it is also Bergman’s last film. I think a chronological approach would be best, and then you can go in other directions according to your taste. btw Fredo Bergman would do plays in the Fall and a Movies in the spring/summer and that was his rutine, so you can see how he was able to make all those movies and direct so many plays. And yes his films are very theatrical, but thats another thread. Autumn Sonata is very similar to O’ Neils Day’s Long Journey into Night.
Would you care to explain how you came to that conclusion?
F & A is your favorite Bergman work? How come? Have you seen Persona or The Silence or Cries and Whispers? or the Spider Trilogy?
Bergman was always sort of middlebrow in the sense that his films screamed “seriousness,” but the ideas in them were fairly easy. You didn’t really need an extensive education to follow what he was saying; nor even the sort of awareness of (political) dialectics that you find in Godard. But film is basically a middlebrow art form by definition.
look what you’ve done ghan
film is basically a middlebrow art form by definition??who defined that???
can’t we all accept film is film like philosophy is philosophy and theater is theater and painting is painting and music is music and opera is opera and…and..and..???
That’s tautological, it doesn’t change whether an art form is highbrow or middlebrow.
oh,i see..subjectivity alert….i’ll pass…
lol. Not sure what you mean by subjectivity alert.
Middlebrow means essentially bourgeois, and not requiring deep critical or philosophical faculties. Now in the past thirty years a whole field of academic theory has sprung up around film, but film did not begin that way, nor does it support (all the time) such a heavy duty apparatus. And I admit this, as a film theorist. The most basic way of enjoying films is still the old fashioned middlebrow way, and I think if we forget that we lose touch with the beauty, emotion and real power of films.
You can always tell when you read a critic who’s too much “in the head” and doesn’t take note of what’s down to earth about film, or the beauty (rather than meaning) of an image.