Movies Movies TIP SHEET FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARIONETTES Search­ing for Ing­mar Bergman

Plays for four nights at the Cine­math­eque. This un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated work from 1980 screens along­side for three of them, on Fri­day, Satur­day, and Sun­day (Novem­ber 16 to 18).

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Es­cap­ing Hell on a tran­sit visa

dTHE SEC­OND doc­u­men­tary this sea­son to tackle the great Swedish di­rec­tor’s life and work, Search­ing


for Ing­mar Bergman is both less com­pre­hen­sive and more per­sonal than Jane Mag­nus­son’s Bergman: A Year in the Life.

Al­though the other movie delved fur­ther into the as­cetic au­teur’s pri­vate life and some­times pub­lic demons, the per­sonal here comes mainly from Ger­man film­maker Mar­garethe von Trotta, talk­ing to col­leagues and Bergman in­ti­mates about the pro­cesses, and prob­lems, be­hind his art.

Born in 1942, von Trotta grew up en­rap­tured by the post­war work of the ex­per­i­men­tal Swede, a quar­ter­century older. She be­gins her search on the is­land of Fårö, home to his lat­ter years, on the beach where Max von Sy­dow played chess with death in The Sev­enth Seal. The younger film­maker, who started as an ac­tor, broke through in 1975, with The Lost Hon­our of Katha­rina Blum, di­rected with then hus­band Volker Sch­lön­dorff (who later made The Tin Drum and an early ver­sion of The Hand­maid’s Tale). She was amazed to find that her 1981 Mar­i­anne and Ju­liane made Bergman’s own list of 10 all­time mas­ter­pieces, along­side works by Chap­lin, Fellini, and Kuro­sawa.

Here, she trav­els to Stock­holm, Mu­nich, and Paris to talk to sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of con­tem­po­raries and film­mak­ers still un­der his spell. These in­clude Liv Ull­man, of course, and di­rec­tors such as Olivier As­sayas and Car­los Saura. The Span­ish vet­eran com­ments on Bergman’s grad­ual re­treat from the re­li­gious themes that dom­i­nated the early ef­forts from this trou­bled son of a preacher man. “Lit­tle by lit­tle, God be­comes less present, and men and women are left to their own de­vices.” In­deed, Bergman’s moves to­ward ab­strac­tion, as em­bod­ied by Per­sona, and dream­like hu­man­ism, as in the au­tum­nal Wild Straw­ber­ries, re­main his most in­flu­en­tial strains.

There’s not a lot of film anal­y­sis, al­though sev­eral film­mak­ers note that his move to dig­i­tal cin­ema, for 2003’s Sara­band (a se­quel, by the way, to Scenes From a Mar­riage, 30 years later), was an early adop­tion by any stan­dard. Bergman was 85 at the time.

Most re­veal­ing are his sons, and a grand­son, from dif­fer­ent mar­riages, who visit their neg­li­gent pa­tri­arch’s book-lined Fårö re­treat with a mix­ture of re­gret and amused res­ig­na­tion. Most in­trigu­ing is a long chat with French writer-di­rec­tor Mia Hansen-løve, who spent much time there, pre­par­ing for a film not men­tioned but due next year: Bergman’s Is­land. She used to live with As­sayas, by the way; the twinned themes of fam­ily and film never leave the screen. In fact, von Trotta di­rected this with Fe­lix Moeller, son of her first mar­riage. He must have some sto­ries to tell.


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