Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Conversations 2010 #2

Conversations 2010 #2

Jason, we're mostly agreeing with each other about Bergman. 

I think you're right that Bergman leaves a lot of room for the audience to maneuver around in (project their own ideas if you prefer).  This is one of his greatest strengths, that his films are simultaneously so intensely personal and so open to others to inhabit.   

I don't know why, but I did not use the word "hope" in regards to any of the Bergman films I've seen so far.  I think hopelessness may be Bergman's greatest failure.  In The Seventh Seal, you rightly point out that Bergman is wrestling with his faith.  I'd argue that he still has Hope at this point in his career.  Because he still has some faith.  In the entire trilogy, but specifically in The Silence, Bergman becomes faithless.  He gives up on Hope.  In doing so, he loses the wrestling match.  Because he's convinced that he has already lost.  

Hope continues to exist in Bergman's universe, but without faith (the substance of things hoped for) Bergman's hope is clearly shown (by him to him) again and again to be in vain.

Through a Glass Darkly ends in confusion and pathetic platitudes.  Winter Light ends with a man unable to follow his convictions, speaking hollow words with a hollow heart.  The hope in Through a Glass Darkly is that these characters will continue to genuinely care about one another even if they never find ways to express it.  The hope in Winter Light is present in the pastor's insistence on performing the liturgy to an empty house.  The show must go on.

The Silence is again the most complex of the films.  It is easy to see everything end in despair, but you're right to point out that Bergman identifies with the boy.  There is some slim shred of hope for the boy in the end.  He retains his innocence and gentleness in a world in which everything else is shattered.  He may not be able to read words in a foreign language, but he cherishes them anyway.  

I do think that any hint of hope present is a false hope, based on Bergman's embracing the twin towers of existentialism, that man is the measure of all things and man is meaningless.

Back to perspective, I saw something of worth in The Silence precisely because of its bleak assessment of the human condition.  This is exactly what I'd expect a world stripped of faith and hope to look like.  Bergman gives us a cinematic world in which he has finally rid himself of his monster god.  If faith is so bad, you'd think this freedom from god would be portrayed as exhilarating.  We'd get sunshine and rainbows.  Maybe we'd get Bruno.  Bergman is too honest with himself to do that.  We don't get sunshine and rainbows.  We get doom and gloom.  As a Christian, I can only assert that I think Bergman gets things absolutely right here about how he gets them totally wrong. 

In this committment to misery apart from faith, I have to argue that Bergman remains fundamentally Christian in his worldview, the leading spokesman of God's negative imprint.  He never does (at least not at this point in his career; I'm not as aware of his post-60s work) escape the worldview that he was shaped in.

I've got four more Bergman films in my collection yet to watch before my Bergman mini-marathon is complete.  Hour of the Wolf, Shame, The Serpent's Egg, and Saraband.  I've seen the first two before.  The second two will be new to me.

I'm going to take a break from Bergman for a couple of weeks, but then I'll get back to these four.

In a few days I'm going to post the first of what I hope will become a semi-regular feature here: non-cinephile friend guest posts.  The first post will be my pastor's Stalker essay that I mentioned a while ago.  After that, I'm hoping to get something written by a great artist.  I hope you don't mind too much, Brandon, that I'm loaning him your copy of F For Fake when he gets back from California in a couple of weeks.  I know he'll take good care of it and I really think that he'll appreciate it.  I'll get it back to you eventually!  

I'm also going to get a fiery Nascar-loving preacher's appreciation of Weir's Fearless and maybe Tarantino's Basterds if I buy a copy.  After that, I'm not so sure, but I'm already thinking of others and will hopefully get an all-star lineup together to offer up some different perspectives on different films.

Finally, the other day I let my girls watch some cartoons.  I was mostly getting ready for work while they watched, but I did sit down with them to see a short that I had never seen before.  It's called Early to Bet, directed by Bob McKimson and written by Warren Foster.  I loved it.  The premise is simple, the urge to gamble depicted as a literal gambling bug, a small insect that goes around biting poor suckers on the ear and causing them to make a wager just one more time.  The cat and dog gin rummy bit is great, but the opening of guys sitting around at a table betting on which mug of beer a fly would land on is inspired.  I'm really not sure if I'll see anything better all year.  

Speaking of gambling, I'm going to up the ante this year here on the blog and commit to writing even about every short that I see (which will be mostly WB cartoons) and every television show that I watch (I'm currently in the middle of an early Dr. Who series).  I haven't given up on Breaking Bad.  I misplaced the disc that had all the Season 1 episodes on it.  I'll probably also start watching Lost Season 6 soon, but I'm tempted to just wait until the season is over and watch it all at once.

I watched about an hour and a half of the Golden Globes the other night.  That was stupid.  

I will not write about scraps of television that I'm forced to endure here and there at work unless I watch something in its entirety.  I'm also not going to write about the every once in a while when I'll turn on Conan or Charlie Rose for 15 to 30 minutes when I get home from work and bravely surf the digital broadcast wasteland.

Unrelated to anything that came above, I really want to see Crazy Heart.


1 comment:

82jp said...

You're biting off quite a bit there, John. I laud you for it, but I can also feel the pressure all the way over here. I'll feel good if I can get a post a week off. Of course, I'm writing reviews in a couple of other forums as well (including trying to review for School Library Journal again), so I've got to pace myself :).
I like your point about Bergman being the negative imprint of the Christian world view. Again because of how personal his work seems, he seems less to be trying to refute this Christian world view and more to be expressing his decreasing ability to be able to abide it, if that makes sense. I believe with all my heart that once you've truly had faith, you can't replace it with faith in something else, you can only let it go. An analogy that seems apt to me is this: I can't in good conscience root for the Yankees as heartily as I did in my youth because I know more about how they work internally and some of it goes against the spirit of the game. but I also can never root for any other team, because once upon a time, I truly loved the Yankees, and there will always be bits of that in me, even if I can't fully enter into the experience any more.
That's actually a better analogy than I thought it would be when I started to write it. Go figure. :)