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soul shakers

by hannakat
An ongoing list of movies I have seen that are…well, moving, for wholly subjective reasons, in the order that I have seen them. 1. Persona The contents of this list – hell, the very purpose I have for making it – probably makes it more than evident that if the cultural world were to ever formally announce the division between Godardians and Bergmanites, and they were to declare war, I would absolutely be on the Bergmanite front lines operating a giant tank laser rigged to fire a soul-powered beam of destruction through those vapid bastards. That is NOT to say I cannot appreciate Godard’s films. He is, without a doubt, a huge and respectable… Read more

An ongoing list of movies I have seen that are…well, moving, for wholly subjective reasons, in the order that I have seen them.

1. Persona
The contents of this list – hell, the very purpose I have for making it – probably makes it more than evident that if the cultural world were to ever formally announce the division between Godardians and Bergmanites, and they were to declare war, I would absolutely be on the Bergmanite front lines operating a giant tank laser rigged to fire a soul-powered beam of destruction through those vapid bastards. That is NOT to say I cannot appreciate Godard’s films. He is, without a doubt, a huge and respectable icon in modern cinema, but for the sake of space and relevance I will not continue to elaborate on my opinion of his films until I get around to talking about them in particular.

The one thing that I hate about Godard is the fanbase he has amassed and refined in his image. It’s like an army of robots – horrifically smart and aesthetically skilled robots, abound with impressive philosophical and political knowledge. I believe sophisticated thought is only half the value of living, inferior to feeling, love, and lack of calculation, and if you are ever to instigate something to try to assert what you presume is superiority simply because you have haughty laughs and scowls and a dense vocabulary I will not hesitate to incinerate you. Actually, I lie; I would probably just ignore you altogether and walk away knowing there is no way we could connect if I didn’t betray everything I stand for and waste energy. It is simply the way of the Bergmanite to accept life’s challenges with modesty, and conserve ourselves for wonderful and painful conflicts of the heart, rather than try to deal with an ass like you.

Oh dear I digress. The point I’m trying to drive here is that the sort of value I place in film and the way I fell so in love with film after seeing Persona is wholly indicative of the person I am and the things I stand for, and it is at the same time implicit of how I might have a prejudice vs. Godard, seeing as Persona was actually supposedly Bergman’s response to the fabulously popular mercurial little movies that he was cranking out. I am, however, not prejudiced against Godard’s work itself, only against the audience he appeals to. I just wanted to announce my deep and undying attachment to everything Bergman, and that everyone should totally assume I am “that” kind of person, and at the same time clarify that that doesn’t mean I hate Godardian cinema. In fact I really enjoy it when I’m in the right mood, but MOVING ON

2. The Fountain
This is a bit of a mainstream film to list directly after a masterpiece like Persona, but I do not discriminate. While this may not be a pure art film, it is a superb visual poetic allegory with a fantastic soundtrack. Technical reasons aside, Rachel Weisz is my favorite of the slender, dark-featured women recurrent in cinema today (out Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, etc.), and Hugh Jackman is just hot. Oblige me at least one aesthetic indulgence. Well, two, counting Pans…

3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
There’s some personal backstory to this one. After my life-changing introduction to Persona, the only reasonable next step was grab as many Bergman films I could get my hands on and soak them up like a sponge. But that summer was a rough one for me, and more than anything I just wanted a little bit of cinematic escape. It was during this time that I watched a few of Godard’s lighthearted and playful films, and while I was clicking around in Bergman’s Wikipedia page to decide what I would watch when I was ready to get cut to the bone again, I wandered onto Sven Nykvist’s page, and found him accredited to the cinematography of this film. I Netflixed it immediately. It was perfect for the season; long, hot, and sensual, the same as a summer day, and inspirational in several ways.

4. Cries and Whispers
I was very excited to see the screenshot selected for this film on the auteurs was the one that I found most striking. The whole film seemed to be shot like a moving painting, with a palette of red and white and flesh. It was like the story behind a gallery of classic art, with its folds of cloth and pensive faces. My main reason for appreciating this film so much is just because it reminded me of the incredible way Bergman depicts women, particularly in the wake of my summer of Godard and empty souls.

5. Wild Strawberries
I think it is fortunate that I watched this film at the unripe age of 18, or else I think I would be even more shaken by it. Then again, I know I will watch it again in a few decades to reevaluate how time and level of applicability will cause my psyche to react, because for now it feels more like a warning rather than something I can directly relate to. So I see this film the same way my mother has suggested I see Shakespeare’s King Lear – something that becomes more appreciable with age. It is, however, a human issue, and a phenomenally executed one, and as a human all human issues are intimate to me regardless of where I am in my life.

6 -8. The Faith Trilogy: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence
My next target for Bergman film was the Faith Trilogy, which I accidentally worked through backwards in order of level of Godlessness. It was actually during this time that I was going through my own eventual loss of faith, which I actually understand much better now in retrospect, but I won’t elaborate too far into that as that’s a bit personal and still under construction. I will say that it raised every single one of the same questions and even answered a few for me, and for that reason it makes the list.

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc
This film spoke to me through a medium inexpressible in words.

10. Breaking the Waves
The reason I list this is because not only was the entire premise of it miserablawesomely sadtacular, but Emily Watson’s performance as Bess blew me away. It had me quivering and laughing at the same time, which is a very weird but very honest sensation, and I’m sure if anyone had been watching me while I was viewing it they would’ve thought I was autistic or otherwise socially/mentally impaired. I tittered and blushed and winced and gaped and just generally looked like I was making exaggerated faces at a baby. Maybe I was subconsciously mirroring Bess’s character because it was so strong?

11. Pan’s Labyrinth
Yet another rather mainstream, lush fantasy flick that I simply appreciated so much on an aesthetic level that it didn’t have to have an intensely deep over-arching message. Mostly props for a job well done.

12. The Sacrifice
I can’t tell if this was a good start to my endeavors in the work of Tarkovsky, or if I should be going chronologically, but then again, I figure ANY start in his work is a good one. This film slowly and intensively blew my mind. There were some images and themes that felt immediately clear to me – some of what I see as more accessible ones, like the shattering of the glass jug of milk as the whine of war shook the house that seemed to imply the spilling of innocent blood – and some that did not, but that only gives me reason to watch it again and again. This was truly visual poetry. Not even visual poetry, visual is too superficial; this is poetry created with human action and emotion, objects and environments, and it is so full and real and intimate, and yet just-out-of-reach as a dream. I can see why Tarkovsky is hailed as one of the best. It’s one thing to create art that conveys a deep universal message, and it’s another to create art that is absolutely yours; it is the greatest thing of all to create something so incredibly personal that it dips into the center of what sews the collective soul of the world together, and can move us all.

PS: Nykvist is the man. And after seeing so many Swedish films I’m actually starting to pick up on a few words and phrases, like “förlåt mig,” which means “forgive me.”

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