Tag Archives: ingmar bergman

XL Popcorn – Summer with Monika

So the big hope was that, with the Covid-19 lockdown, I would be able to get a bunch of things crossed off at hyper speed. Unfortunately the opposite has happened and psychologically I’ve just been going down and quickly. I’ve tried maintaining this blog, but when I have no energy to read, listen to new albums or to write… things have become very difficult. So these next posts are likely to be briefer than usual.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 826/1007Title: Sommaren med Monika (Summer with Monika)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1953
Country: Sweden

Summer with Monika is the earliest Ingmar Bergman film that I have seen, which probably explains why I found it difficult to see many similarities between this and other entries in his filmography. It still showcases his keen ability to observe, but it lacks any trace of other-wordliness that I really enjoy about his work. Instead, Summer with Monika is a story of rebellion, consequence and the difficulties of breaking with societal norms.

To many non-Swedes of this era, Summer with Monika was primarily known for the nude scenes… which are incredibly tame by the standards of even a decade later. Times were changing though, and characters like Monika and Harry fighting their losing fight against what is expected of them as Swedes of the early 1950s.

As with many of these types of rebellion films, the fight is a losing one. These two were never going to be a good fit. Monika has been abused by her father and she wants a freedom that wasn’t afforded to working class women of this era, especially one with a baby. Harry was pretty much a follower anyway, so when things so bad he is more able to fit back in.

It’s an interesting film to see, but for me it lacks a lot of what I love about Bergman. Having re-watched The Seventh Seal after this – it was good to recapture that magic again.

XL Popcorn – Through A Glass Darkly

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 789/1007Title: Såsom i en spegel (Through A Glass Darkly)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1961
Country: Sweden

Honestly, it took two films on the 1001 list before I stumbled into another one that featured incest as a plot point. I know that, when posting about Before the RevolutionI said I would rage quit the next time it happened, but this is a Bergman film and I was enjoying it too much to let some off-screen incest make me reach for the remote. Also, at least this film doesn’t feature an slalom for the director as one of the incestees – so I guess that’s progress?

I don’t know if I have ever watched a Bergman film and found it an enjoyable experience. I find them moving, challenging or profoundly interesting, but I cannot say that I’ve come across a film of his that I could label as fun.  Through A Glass Darkly continues this run with an evocative and engaging look at mental illness – specifically a woman with schizophrenia and how her husband, father and brother deal with their own demons in relation to her.

Starting out, we know that many of the relationships are strained. Some because of Karin’s schizophrenia and others because of the father’s inability to form emotional connections with those around him. By the end, Karin’s had a complete relapse leaving her father and somewhat ignored brother left to ponder the meaning of life and the existence of God if such things are allowed to happen. It’s heavy stuff, but Bergman gives us hope through the final words of the film “Papa spoke to me”.

As with all Bergman films, Through a Glass Darkly is beautifully directed and is able to be incredibly thoughtful whilst dealing with some exceedingly dark topics. He also gets brilliant performances from the central four actors, especially Harriet Andersson whose descent during the 90 minutes is fascinating and heart-breaking. There’s also a lot of subtle nods to family histories which only hit you after the film has finished, which just goes to show how much this film can make you think.

The next time I’ll be watching a 1001 film will be on the flight to Hong Kong (assuming there’s no travel warning put up between now and then). I really hope it’s going to be an incest-free movie, but with a title like The Quiet Man I don’t know what to expect anymore.

XL Popcorn – Wild Strawberries

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 686/1007Title: Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1957
Country: Sweden

It has been too long since I last saw my last Bergman film (Persona). Now that I’ve seen  Wild Strawberries I think it is fair to say that I have watched the last of the top tier Bergman films, although there are still some big ones left (such as Through A Glass Darkly). I have yet to watch an Ingmar Bergman film that I didn’t enjoy watching or left me thinking afterwards – and that run still continues.

Due to my own issues, I usually do not respond well to films like Wild Strawberries. At the centre is an older man called Isak who is being honoured for a lifetime of service as a doctor, however he is also someone who is seen as cold and aloof by those closest to him. The course of the film we get to know Isak through flashbacks and dreams, with him becoming warmer and on the road to reformed by the end.

Leave it to Bergman to find a way to make this story that appeals to someone as jaded as I am. I mean this was one part A Christmas Carol and another part Seventh Seal. The weirdly symbolic dreams and the well-executed flashbacks (which were done warts and all, rather than turned into something overly saccharin) give us two very different sides of Isak’s psychology. In fact, psychology is a very good watch word for this film as a whole.

It’s also worth commending Bergman’s script, which is able to deliver comedic moments, surreal moments and sequences that offer an extreme amount of pathos. A lot of praise also needs to be heaped on the three stars who help to accurately portray the changing relationships between Isak and the others. Bibi Andersson pulls off an excellent double duty as Sara (as modern day hitchhiker and as Isak’s former fiance from the past).

There is a lot of interesting things to unpack after watching Wild Strawberries. How much of the memories are true versus those filtered through his own experience? For how long will these relationships between Isak and those closest to him improve? What will happen to his son and daughter-in-law after the camera stops rolling? Does the ending signify something other than him reflecting on a beautiful memory and accepting his past?

The more I reflect on Wild Strawberries the more I realise just how good this film was. It’s a common thing with Bergman films – so it’s good to know that this isn’t an exception. This might be my favourite of his films, or that might still be Autumn Sonata. I guess I’ll need some time to think on that.


XL Popcorn – Persona

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 625/1007
Title: Persona
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1966
Country: Sweden

With Persona I am now halfway through the ten Ingmar Bergan flicks. The only one I watched for this blog was The Hour of the Wolf… which I don’t think I really got. I still liked it, but it wasn’t the horror movie that I would have expected for a Halloween viewing.

Speaking of horror, Persona is another of Bergman’s films where I’ve seen horror listed as a sub-genre. This time I did not take that too seriously and I think it helped. What I didn’t quite expect was for this to be such an art film. I know that The Seventh Seal has the chess game with Death and that Fanny and Alexander has elements of magic… but this takes artiness to the next level. Not just because of that crucifixion clip, but in how Persona keeps breaking the fourth wall and playing with the idea of this being a film.

It’s really hard to describe Persona. It’s one of those films where I have seen a large number of interpretations that all have their own merits. On the surface of it you have a film about a nurse (Bebe Andersson) looking after an actress (Liv Ullman) who has had some sort of breakdown. For most of the film they are isolated in a remote cottage on the coast where the void left by actress’s silence leads to the nurse filling it with her own secrets.

As a description that is completely pants, mainly because such a surface description for a film like Persona is utterly pointless. The great fun with watching a film like this is to see where Bergman and his imagery takes you. He creates such an atmosphere of uncertainty in that everything you see feels like it is part of some grand deception and in the end that is what Persona is. Well, to me it is.

Having seen this I subscribe to the interpretation that Alma (the nurse) and Elisabet (the actress) are one and the same person. Bergman frames so many of the shots so that their faces overlap and when we are introduced to Elisabet’s husband he mistakes Alma to be his wife… despite the fact that they are standing with each other.

The question, therefore, becomes who is the real person and who is the persona? Or are there two people with one projecting on the other? For me, it being just Elisabet in that cabin with a nurse makes sense. The character of Alma comes from Elisabet’s subconscious and her regrets. If the beginning and ending is to be interpreted a certain way – I think that Elisabet hurt this son she never wanted and had some sort of breakdown.

Through Alma’s monologues Elisabet is coming to terms with the fact that, unlike the roles she plays on stage, being a mother is a role and a truth that she can’t excise from her life. It’s like she has been trying to reject the gender norms of female parenthood and this experience is the whiplash of it all coming crashing down on her.

Then again those are my thoughts. Persona doesn’t have a single interpretation and that’s what makes it a great film. It stays with you and makes for a great talking point.

Halloween 2015

It’s Halloween weekend 2015 and it appears that I am in the throes of some form of jetlag. It is the third morning in a row that I have been awake at 5am and actually am okay to wake up. Ugh.

Anyway, seeing how this is Halloween weekend (to be going up 5 months later) I can think of some food and maybe a movie to cross off.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Food item: Toffee Apple

Believe it or not, but I had never had a toffee apple before. I had one of those things which looks like a toffee apple, but is actually an apple-sized piece of marshmallow coated in chocolate and sprinkles. My question about toffee apples is this: why? An apple can be hard enough to bite into when it is cold. Coat it in rock-hard toffee and it becomes weird. Nice enough, probably too old to have this for the first time.

Food item: Pumpkin Pie

So, these do look like giant Reeses Cups, but they are actually two slightly shallow pumpkin pies. What can I say? I have no faith in making my own pastry so I had to use what they had in Morrison’s. It’s been a while since I last made pumpkin pie (using the recipe on the Libby’s tin), and for this one I subbed in some nutmeg for ginger since I just like it better.

As much as I like the cooked pie I equally like the raw pie mix and may try and turn it into ice cream at some point.

Progress: 777/933

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 455/1007Title: The Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1968
Country: Sweden

This is the fifth Ingmar Bergman film I have seen (after The Seventh Seal, Fanny & Alexander, Autumn Sonata and Cries & Whispers) and this is, by far, the most bizarre. Vargtimmen was his only attempt at making a horror movie. After reading some reviews for it on Rotten Tomatoes where it was described as a brilliant gothic fantasy, I figured that it would make for a good horror movie for Halloween.

Thing is, it wasn’t scary. Fair enough, not all horror movies are. The Innocents, for example, is unsettling and haunting instead of being scary. I am not entirely sure what Vargtimmen was. I guess abstract and psychological would be some decent adjectives?

I guess the issue I had was with Alma (played by Liv Ullmann) the lead character and wife of Johan (played by Max Von Sydow). In the words of my mum, “she is such a drip”. As husbands go he is a moody arsehole who goes on to shoot her (don’t worry she lives). She stays with him despite some weird forms of psychological abuse and then muses at the end that maybe she didn’t love him enough.

The best part of this film occurs in the last 15 minutes, but it was weird rather than anything I would consider horror.

As a film lover, this was definitely worth seeing. I mean, just to see how Bergman takes on psychological horror (more like thriller really). Probably not a rewatch though.