While few critics would dispute Ingmar Bergman’s (1918–2007) status in the pantheon of major filmmakers, the very mention of his name unjustly conjures images of gloom and despair. All of his pictures, including his comedies, deal seriously with faith, morality, and mortality, but audiences and critics too often neglect the extraordinary wit and vitality that can be found in Wild Strawberries, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander, and many others.
In Ingmar Bergman: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, $20 paperback) the director discusses the many facets of his work. These interviews, collected by editor Raphael Shargel, are funny, full of life, surprisingly thoughtful, complex, and profound. The volume begins with a 1957 piece, conducted just as he completed his early masterpiece The Seventh Seal, and ends in 2002, as he was preparing to direct Saraband; effectively covering his entire career.
Seeing Bergman through the perspective of different interviewers is revelatory. As he interacts with them, he seems to modify not only his manner, but also his appearance and some of his attitudes. As if the processes of interviewing were as collaborative as the artistic endeavors of staging a play or shooting a film.
In a 1968 interview Bergman spoke of his unique manner of filmmaking with Lars-Olof Löthwall. Bergman observed that, “Filmmakers exert the least influence over me. Because I don’t see the world the way they do. Formally, I achieve my results by going my own way.”
Ingmar Bergman: Interviews offers extraordinary insights into the life of one of film’s towering artists and paints a picture of a magnificently versatile genius. The book also includes a chronology and filmography.
Raphael Shargel is associate professor of English at Providence College, where he teaches literature and film. He is the film critic for the New Leader.
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