Being a part-time blogger in the maddeningly fast-paced world of contemporary film criticism, in which instant responses are not only encouraged but now expected, I naturally scrambled early this morning to put together my thoughts regarding the death of Ingmar Bergman. He’s always been such a mainstay in my film education (a.k.a., my life) that his passing strikes me as profoundly sad, even if the man himself reportedly had stated many times that he was more than ready for it. The thought of assembling a quick tribute to a man so integral to my thought processes as a film watcher is daunting to say the least, so when indieWIRE contacted me to ask if I would like to write an appreciation, the answer was a momentarily reluctant, then emphatically positive yes. All I truly want to is shout from the rafters my love for Bergman, so coherent sentences seem a tall order. Nevertheless here goes.
The Start of a Journey: An Appreciation of Ingmar Bergman
I firmly believe that I can credit Ingmar Bergman with my understanding and appreciation of cinema as an art form. Looking back on my life, there have been distinct stages to my growing awareness of film as something more than entertainment, more than narrative, more than itself–in childhood, Fantasia clued me in to the essentials: sound plus image; in preadolescence, 2001: A Space Odyssey forced me to acknowledge that storytelling needn’t be cinema’s ultimate goal, and that the unknown is far more pleasurable than what’s understood; and in adolescence, when I began to crave even stronger stuff, there was Ingmar Bergman, whose provocatively titled, in-every-way foreign films lined the shelves of my local public library. Growing up suburban, I had no choice but to first witness all classic films in full-framed videotape, with resolutely unrestored transfer and sound, yet this hardly demystified the experience of discovering these new forms of cinema (that were sometimes as “new” as forty years old). Askew images stared back from the boxes, and in the case of The Seventh Seal‘s death figure, literally beckoned me.