BTLVI 1974: The Misanthrope

The Misanthrope (Misantropen). Ingmar Bergman. 1974. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

This is a TV recording of a Danish theatre production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope directed by Bergman. It’s quite fun, and Ghita Nørby as Célimène is a blast to watch. I don’t think anyone would quite have guessed that it was a Bergman production if they hadn’t known, though.

Great fun.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLV 1973: Scenes from a Marriage

Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap). Ingmar Bergman. 1973. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

I’ve seen the TV series before, so I thought it might be fun to see the cinema version, too. I vaguely remember the TV series as being a very involving soap opera. The cinema version is apparently just an edited-down version (they lopped off about two hours?).

To begin with, Nykvist refused: ‘We’d shot the series in the 16 mm format 1: 1.33. Now it was to be blown up to 1: 1.66. I looked at some samples. The cropping was extremely ugly, and the images were grainy. I called Ingmar and told him that we couldn’t agree to this.’ Nykvist cited the fact that the subtitles would obscure the actors’ mouths, and that his contract stipulated that it would only be screened in 16 mm.

Bergman, always more pragmatic than his reputation might suggest, replied: ‘Have you forgotten that you’re a co-producer? We’re not talking small change here. You’ve got ten per cent of the rights.’

Heh heh. Yes, Bergman and his crew self-financed the film, and it became a worldwide phenomenon, raking in the dosh. I haven’t seen anybody say it directly, but I would guess that this was the immediate cause for the Swedish tax authority’s vendetta against Bergman: That he suddenly had a lot of money stashed in foreign bank accounts, which must have seemed odd.

Anyway, this cut-down theatrical version is quite thrilling. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it over the TV series, but it’s just so… intense. It makes it seem more like a very long Ibsen play than a soap opera.

It does make me want to watch the TV series, though, because I have no idea what were in those two hours they edited out.

It also seem very effortless; untortured. Like the scenes just happen naturally without any embellishment between these brilliant actors. And apparently they were very disciplined: While on a normal Bergman shoot, you get three minutes of film per shooting day, on this one they did up to twenty minutes per day.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLIV 1970: The Lie

The Lie. Alan Bridges. 1970. ⭐⭐⭐★★★.

This is the British version of The Lie, which I saw the Swedish version of last weekend. So we’re skipping back from 1973, way back to the misty days of 1970, when a bunch of European countries all recorded their own versions of the same Bergman script.

I’m not going to watch them all, but I thought it might be fun to watch the British version, at least. It’s directed by Alan Bridges, the chap that did The Shooting Party… Isn’t that a quite good movie? I’m not sure.

Anyway!

This version is also from the Bergman bootlegger, and it’s OK. Not much colour to speak of (but perhaps everything was an orangey beige in England in 1970), and with a title permanently placed at the top, but otherwise OK.

This is a better production than the Swedish version, even if the actors have extremely plummy voices. The main problem remains: The script still isn’t very thrilling. It so vague. Even after seeing a second version of it, I’m still not sure I could say what it’s about other than… you know… people with vague dissatisfactions.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLIII 1973: The Ghost Sonata

The Ghost Sonata (Spöksonaten). Ingmar Bergman. 1973. ⭐⭐⭐★★★.

What a strange artefact. This is from the collection of the Bergman bootlegger, and it’s a video recording from 1973 of Bergman’s production of Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata from a single camera placed on the balcony, apparently.

There’s a lot of video ghosting whenever anybody moves, which is so ironic, don’t you think?

There’s a lot of coughing from the audience, so I guess it’s from a winter performance? Let’s see… yes, teh interwebz seem to say that it’s from January 1973.

It seems like an interesting version of The Ghost Sonata, but it’s a bit hard to tell here. I mean. Really. So the scoring here is on the viewing experience.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLII 1972: Cries & Whispers

Cries & Whispers (Viskningar och rop). Ingmar Bergman. 1972. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Unless I misremember the following films, Cries & Whispers is sort of the end of an era: It’s the last of the classic 60s films (even if we’re now in the 70s). After this, it all becomes a bit confusing, with TV productions (sometimes cut down into theatrical productions), foreign co-productions and finally Bergman leaving Sweden for a few years.

But if this is the end of something, it’s also a triumph. I think it’s Bergman’s best film, and it was also a commercial success (which was extra welcome since Bergman had financed it (partially) himself, and the actors too percentages of the net instead of wages (and it was amusingly enough distributed in the US by schlockmeister Roger Corman)).

As usual, Bergman was critiqued for being too booshwah:

This is a world event, so they say. Just like Volvo and Swedish vodka, Bergman is a saleable product in the global marketplace. […] Ingmar Bergman is one of this country’s truly reactionary artists. He would never, as many other artists did, take a stand on behalf of the people of Vietnam. He is very hostile towards the proletarian theatres that are beginning to spring up. In acting circles it is a well known fact that he thinks that workers’ theatre is bad theatre. He would never sink to such a low level. Bergman makes art for company directors and their like, a sort of Playboy art. It always involves a little nudity, something a bit shocking and a few emotional entanglements. Made for export.

And like many of Bergman’s best films, it almost fails the reverse Bechdel test (but the husbands exchange one line near the end).

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTLI 1970: The Lie

The Lie (Reservatet). Jan Molander. 1970. ⭐⭐⭐★★★.

This TV play (directed by Jan Molander from a script by Bergman) had its origin in the work with The Passion of Anna film: The script for that film apparently started off as this script, but then evolved into something very different, so Bergman gave the original script to somebody else to direct.

Or something.

I found this on the SVT web page, but had to use a VPN to trick it into believing that I’m in Sweden to get it to allow me to watch it.

A British version was also made, directed by Alan Bridges. And… an American version? And a Yugoslav version? It’s all so confusing. Hm…

Oh!

This was simultaneously made in many European countries as part of the EBU “The Largest Theatre in the World” project, where each member country offered a TV play which member states then made their own language versions of.

I wouldn’t really have guessed that this was a Bergman script if I hadn’t known, I think. It seems so scattered and unfocused.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTL 1971: The Touch

The Touch (Beröringen). Ingmar Bergman. 1971. ⭐⭐★★★★.

The intention was to shoot The Touch in both English and Swedish. In an original version that doesn’t seem to exist anymore, English was spoken by those who were English-speaking and Swedish by those who were Swedes. I belive that it just possibly was slightly less unbearable than the totally English-language version, which was made at the request of the Americans.

There are only two films Bergman has forbidden from being shown: This Can’t Happen Here and this one.

So I had to get my copy off of teh torrentz, which seems to be sourced from a copy of a rental VHS, partially overwritten.

Who knew that Elliott Gould is a bad actor? I mean, he isn’t, but he is here, so Bergman really screwed up here.

This is the first one he did with an American actor, I think? I think it’s here to prepare us for his really bad films he did in the late 70s, if I remember correctly, but I guess we’ll see…

It’s not as bad as This Can’t Happen Here. But it’s a strangely amateurish film: Bergman’s usually so careful about the sound, for instance, and it’s a constant shifting symphony of various buzzing sounds here. It sounds and looks like an low-budget film for the first time in Bergman’s career.

Or perhaps it’s just this copy of a VHS copy.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.