BTLXXXV 2003: Saraband

Saraband. Ingmar Bergman. 2003. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

Bergman’s winding down of his career over several decades is deliberate and well-directed: He said goodbye to directing films with his most successful production Fanny & Alexander (a tribute to his grandmother); his final film script was Faithless (where he sort of apologised for his life); he wound down his theatre career with The Image Makers (a look back at his earliest inspirations) and finally ended his TV production with this one, Saraband, which is a continuation of Scenes from a Marriage, but has so many references to his entire life.

Has anybody else in the biz been so careful in how they end things?

The film was premiered on Sveriges Television’s Channel 2 on 3rd December 2003. A few days after the premiere, Dagens Nyheter was able to announce with barely disguised relief that Saraband had attracted 990,000 viewers, a figure comparable to the popular soap of the time, Skeppsholmen, the latest episode of which had been seen by 755,000 people. History can never tell then extent of audience overlap between the two programmes, yet SVT regarded Saraband as an resounding success.

Heh heh.

Anyway, it’s an unusually structured film. There are four characters, and we get a conversation between every permutation of pairs of characters. So that’s… er… where’s my slide rule… Six conversations.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLXXXIV 1978: The Making of Autumn Sonata

The Making of Autumn Sonata. Ingmar Bergman. 1978. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

This bluray showed up in my mailbox the other day, and I was all “wat” because I’ve already seen Autumn Sonata. But after ripping it I recalled that the reason I bought it was that there’s a huge “making of” film included: It’s three and a half hours long! Oh em gee!

So we’re way off the Bergman chronology here (we really only have one film to go before we’re done (and two documentaries) and Bergman is, er, done), but let’s cast our eyes back to the late 70s:

Bergman is in exile because of the tax drama and making a film with Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullman in Norway, of all places. And this is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about making that film. And the documentary is more than two times as long as the film it’s about.

This is chronologically the first of these documentaries, but it’s the fourth? I’ve watched, and it’s totes fasc. Inating.

Ingrid Bergman is very difficult; it’s wonderful. Every other line she’s going “nobody would say that; can’t I say instead?” And she’s right, of course. Ingmar Bergman’s lines aren’t exactly naturalistic.

Liv Ullmann just performs the lines in every rehearsal, and the performance is bone-shiveringly perfect in every read-through. She’s a machine.

Heh heh. Ullmann pointed out at possibly funny interpretation to the lines that (Ingmar) Bergman just came up with and they all laughed. And then (Ingmar) Bergman said to her (sorta privately, but in this docu) “You’re so stupid.”

She makes all the jokes in this docu.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLXXXIII 2000: The Image Makers

The Image Makers (Bildmakarna). Ingmar Bergman. 2000. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

This is the TV version of what Bergman wanted to be his final theatre staging. If you think “TV theatre”, this is it: It has an aesthetic that harks back to (or emulates perfectly) the first wave of “TV theatre” in the 60s and 70s when they could finally do video editing.

So it looks quite unadjusted from the theatre staging, I assume. Unlike his other TV versions of things he’s done on the stage, the actors are really acting out and not dialling it back for the camera.

I love it.

It’s the perfect Bergman project: It’s about Selma Lagerlöf watching the movie version of her 1912 novel Kórkarlen in 1921. So we get Lagerlöf (who’s the most famous author in Sweden at the time) interacting with some definitely low rent movie people, and drama ensues.

Anita Björk is absolutely riveting. However, it loses a bit of its tension in the second act when she’s not present.

It is, curiously enough, the only of Bergman’s TV plays (I think) that have been given a DVD release (with the 1921 Körkarlen film as a double feature; bless Tartan Video). All the other ones I had to get from torrents, pirates and region-blocked web sites.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLXXXII 2000: Faithless

Faithless (Trolösa). Liv Ullmann. 2000. ⭐⭐⭐⭐★★.

Another film directed by Liv Ullmann, but this time without Sven Nykvist. It’s a film about making a story, and also about that story. It’s a fun way to approach this story, but it’s a pretty harsh self-portrait Bergman’s painted of himself. (Assuming that the young asshole of a director is Bergman himself.) Bergman is looking back on his life with a sense of shame, apparently. Or it may be Ullman’s framing…

The rehearsal to A Dream Play is hilarious. Stina Ekblad as a horrible Indra’s daughter is brilliantly awful.

But… while there are fabulous scenes here, it doesn’t quite come together for me. I just lost interest after three or four hours.

It was not a success internationally, but was well-received in Sweden.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLXXXI 1997: Behind In the Presence of a Clown

Behind In the Presence of a Clown (I sällskap med en clown). unknown. 1997. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Geeze. The “making of” films of Bergman’s films in the 80s and 90s are so fascinating. This is another fly-on-the-wall thing where we follow the taping (it’s TV) of the movie, and it’s pretty great. I didn’t know that Bergman was so hands-on. That is, ever time he talks to an actor, he puts his hand of the actor’s arm, back or even face. (“No, don’t do that with your forehead. Just the eyes.”)

We also get a taste of Bergman’s rage (at a technical problems where he immediately backs down when the sheepish technician says “but it was a mistake”) which was apparently a major thing at his earlier films (but he mellowed somewhat as he got older).

I downloaded my copy from SVT after setting my VPN for “Sweden”.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.