Monday, July 30, 2007

A Death in the Film World

I have sad news. Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish master of the Cinema, has passed away at the age of 89. For some, this might have no resonance or importance at all. For those people, all I have to say is watch The Seventh Seal, a deeply provocative and pondering film about the meaning of life, sacrifice, and death. It is one of the few films that consistently sticks with me as a film viewer. Its images were evocative and the infamous chess game is a fitting visual metaphor for the struggles that we all face as humans in this transient life.

Bergman is best known for the work that he has done in examining the human spirit. While many of the filmmakers of his time are also known for this, Bergman's films stand out for their raw, visceral intensity and their powerful beauty. Working with his longtime collaborator cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Bergman produced some of my favorite movies on the human condition in Scenes from a Marriage, which, in painstaking detail, shows the utter collapse of an otherwise happy marriage, and Cries and Whispers, a film that shows the effects of death on a familial relationship. Bergman's impact can be seen in the work of Woody Allen, who was greatly influenced by Bergman and, in particular, Husbands and Wives, which shares thematic elements with Scenes from a Marriage.

While he has not been active in film making for a long period now, his works are internationally and infinitely significant. Some will call him obtuse and with fair cause. But, those who are willing to look deeply within the films will come out with greater understanding of their own lives and a grand appreciation for the work done by Bergman. Now that he and Sven are playing chess elsewhere, I have to say goodbye to the man who influenced me a lot as an aesthetician and say that he will be greatly missed.