Hidden Bergman ‘masterpiece’ to hit Swedish movie screens
Discovered in Ingmar Bergman’s archive, a previously unknown manuscript about sexual and social revolution in the 1960s is to be turned into a movie, nearly a decade after the Swedish director’s death. “Sixtyfour minutes with Rebecka,” written by the legendary filmmaker when he was aged 51, was found in 2002 when Bergman donated his work to an institute in his name, shelved among thousands of letters, completed screenplays and photographs. “Finding an unknown but finished Ingmar Bergman screenplay would be the equivalent of finding a manuscript by Hemingway or if not Shakespeare,” Jan Holmberg, head of the Ingmar Berman Foundation, told AFP.
Known for broaching issues of death, loneliness and religious self-doubt, Bergman portrays the main character Rebecka as an emotionally alienated teacher of deaf mutes, seeking sexual and political liberation during the tumultuous 1960s. “This is the mature artist at his very best, making one of his masterpieces,” Holmberg said. The married Rebecka visits a sex club while she is pregnant and decides to leave her forgiving husband in the hand-written script, which touches on gay relationships, desire, guilt and mental suffering.
Bergman, who was an introverted and conservative filmmaker, portrays the era’s frenetic sexual and social revolution in the script, which was originally meant to be a movie collaboration between Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa, a trio of directing giants.
Fellini had contacted Bergman in 1962 to ask if the Swedish director would be interested in filming a joint movie series with Kurosawa, who years later dropped out for unknown reasons, according to Holmberg. In 1968, Bergman and Fellini signed a Hollywood contract to turn the script into a joint motion picture, but when the Italian screenwriter did not keep his part of the agreement, Bergman was offered to direct the film by himself. Suffering a major blow to profits because of the emergence and dominance of television in the 1960s, the US film industry began to diversify, drawing inspiration from European cinema.
Holmberg said several letters sent back and forth between Bergman and movie executives indicated “an increasingly irritated atmosphere, where the movie companies suddenly wanted the film to be longer than what had been thought earlier” to turn it into a TV series. He noted that the script has “many daring sex scenes, homosexuality and violent sexuality... which would never have been shown on American TV in the 60s”.
This file photo shows the Ingmar Bergman archives located at the Film House in Stockholm.