Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Bergman
One of the rebel strong things and Bradman's of movies is the acting and you can tell of the human spirit in this movie. But because he has been the most important as that was directed for so many years. Bregman has brought into the movies I mean mockable group was stable toto speak I've acted as you might call of the brakemen repertory too. There was Max fun side out of France as it was perhaps the best Now in this country because he recently played the Christ in that castle a film of Stevens called The Greatest Story Ever Told. But he was the knight in the seventh seal he was in The Virgin Spring the magician through a glass darkly went a lot. How did Anderson that you saw here. Absolutely fantastically in my opinion an attractive seductive. Feminine women. I've never seen such a. Really talk about you now with Kim Novak in Salat I mean Novak is
can be God and stuff. This is really a woman that is very sexy as they say right on. You are listening to Dwight McDonald on film. During the past decade Mr. McDonald has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics and during this past year he was distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from that lecture series the topic for this program is the film since 1950. Part two Ingmar Bergman now once again here is Dwight McDonald. Well I don't think I want to talk about the film at the moment. So let's begin by talking about Bragman. Ingmar Bergman born 19 18 in. A.
College town 50 miles from Stockholm. B.A. University of Stockholm his father was a Protestant minister. Between 1938 and 1940 first he directed the great number of amateur plays. And he also got his face ply which was called advice enough. The death of punch. You can see from this film here and by the way the sweetest subtitle of the night at night is a tiny print. You can see from this film the Howell business of cheap folk pop culture I want to call it. Fascinates Bergman the psychosis and the death of punches a perfect appeared to me of his attitude. I was interested in some lies in the 1944 bagman became connected with these events film industry which I told you a few weeks ago was the
state film industry of Sweden but this apparently was wrong and still leading film producing company corporation of Sweden it's a private corporation a pally a law I think it does have. Considerable government subsidies. But anyway in 1944 Brightman about the screenplay for a movie called Tor mad. Which was directed by reading Swedish director named J. Tom that became an international success and partly due to the screenplay and this. Modest was Reitman's breakthrough into the world of the movies. And he also began unfolding for his career as a professional theatre director as a concert director of amateur productions. Since then Bergman has done both every year in fact he spends a large part of the winter directing play and the rest of the
time directing movies. I think you can see in this film above all of his films but you can see that nearly all of his good films but you can certainly see that this man is a theatrical person. I mean there's a great deal of theater in this movie in the last 20 years with in 46 and 66 Bergman has made 26 movies and is written for scripts and has had four wives and six children. He's been quite active in all kinds of ways really. And I couldn't I came in 1953 after he had made about a dozen films not of which in my opinion I think in most people's opinion would really I don't think any of them really terribly good. And some of them. I've seen a couple of these early films and really extremely bad but in the 1950s we wish now I could not write here so to speak. Discovered
himself discovered his style and although the movie was a failure I'll go into that later I want to talk about the movie. It's a failure with the critics and at the box office well naturally it was a fad you might say because they said in the film or anywhere we give out is very gentle. It's 50/50 anyway that it's going to be a flop and that was a KS head. But then in 1955. He made the first of the films that have made him one of the world's famous directors and that is Smiles of a summer night. For the next year by the seven CEO and a 1957 by wild strawberries. The smiles of a summer night won the Palme the top prize that come on in the year. I suppose it was in 55. And the next year the seventh seal also won the same process I think it's the first time that that prize has been won by the same director price two
years in succession. And these three films really put men on the map so to speak and especially the seventh seal which is not one of my favorites but which made his reputation in this country. And then of course he's continued to make films and his last film is a rather and consequential comedy that isn't interesting. But the last three films before that are so-called trilogy. Through A Glass Darkly winter light and the silence they were made and I think the silence came out about two years ago. With these two films. Bergman PADI because he is the son of a. Minister and partly because his life as a boy there must be something to do with his life as a boy because he's fascinated and in my opinion so much so by the question of God and man and the meaning of life. And the problem of evil in the world. Well the fundamental religious
problem which is of God or the good God. How can he permit life to be so bad as it often is. And these three last films are sort of exercises on this question. I think the last of them the silence is absolutely beautifully done which suffers However from my lack of content and my pain. But that's perhaps because I. Don't really. Sympathise with Wagner's more ambitious philosophical efforts one of the things I like about this movie and his work is the fact that there was less. Philosophizing in it. Than there is and most of his other films. Oh to put it another way is the meaning and philosophy comes more naturally out of the characters and plot. And you can even enjoy it without worrying about what its meaning is in that sense.
Today or rather in 1963 he was appointed to head of Sweden's national theatre. He's been directing plays there for many years. The royal dramatic theater in Stockholm. But in 1963 he became the formal head of it and he's light years last couple of years has given more time to theatre than to the to the movies. He is also the artistic adviser which means just Swedish film industry this producing company. Now one thing is interesting about Bergman's career and that is its prevention and the fact that he's been helped by in various ways he's been helped by the fact that Sweden is a smaller country geographically and culturally to write off the mainstream so to speak of European civilization and culture.
I mean the very language in fact is not. Either manic Romance languages and another kind of language and so on. Oh and then also I might say that Bergman himself is very peculiar in that I think as far as I know I don't think he's ever left Sweden. He certainly hasn't. No movies outside of Sweden. There was a boom a few were years ago that he was going to make a movie of commune novel and Hollywood but nothing came of that. And people think that he will not probably leave Sweden he's rather neurotic in many ways and this is one of the ways he he sort of has a snug little business there and. And in fact he's a crowd of his and we wait for Scandinavia we must not be dependent on a world market. This gives us freedom. I can't worry what happens to my movies in foreign countries which is a value odd thing to say because of course the fact is that it's precisely the American market that has certainly produced the most revenue from Blackman's films. In fact the seventh seal
and wild strawberries almost single handed almost by themselves and. Began a revival of the art cinema in this country and yet this is by now this is how very much in another why. And that is that. In the silent days from 1916 to 1926 or so to write direct is the Swedish cinema into something that was internationally now and one of them was Margaret's teller. Who was of course the discoverer of great a gobbler and directed her first big star in Picture time one of the Berling made in Sweden and who then came to this country whether it didn't really work out here as most European directors doubt. Stella was one and the other one was Victor S.. S. J O S T O R O N. Who actually was in Hollywood during the late twenties because he was so well known he didn't do very well in Hollywood either. But anyway he
made some value important silent films. Now what's interesting is that when brakeman came along and just think how much later that was that was in 1944 a SE film was that of course an old man wasn't directing anymore system was always an active interest in this type of the theater and sweeten theater and movies and systems I was one of the people that really helped bagman get started and encouraged him and another price and that was very important to that small family business was the head of a Swedish film industries are remarkable. Businessman an entrepreneur named dimly Col. Anders Diamond about the D why am i and j. Who where between 1942 and his death in 62 was the head of this company and diming constantly back. Bragman put up with his temperament gave him a free hand and in fact without his support. Bragman
certainly could not have had the artistic freedom that he had. And this artistic freedom was very great you know to some extent that brakeman really was the inspiration of the French new way in the sense that they saw what you can do if the director really has a free hand and isn't held down by the usual commercial considerations from the front office and diming was the one that worked with Bergman in this way. So you have these two older men. Helping bagman screw it. Oh yes and then a vector system of costs. The great the final marvelous thing it did for black men was. To play the lead and wild strawberries. If you remember that movie he was the professor and he was actually as old as he was in the movies it was by that time. But in nearly 80 years old. And I think without his performance that the movie would not be anything like as good as it is. This is one of the great performances in screen
history the decision's performance that. There's a right which really gives. In fact I lesser actor and not hot. The movie would be patently destroyed which just illustrates another thing about movies and that is that to some extent they are a collective ahh. The director was not all important. And as I say if I hadn't been for this luck of having him I don't know what the movie would be like. One of the strong things and Bradman's movies is the acting and you can tell that of course you can see it in this movie. But because he has been the most important studies director for so many years. Bagman has brought into the movie remarkable group a stable sort of speak of actors you might call him the brakeman repertory troop. And they appear and most of his important films. Although oddly enough the only one of them that appears in this
film is Howard Anderson who plays the wife of Al but the circus mistress rather Albert the second sour. She's the only one that's in this film. I'm not going to burst Rand also Piers and I forgot he plays the just a small part the head of the troupe of actors the what's his name Mr. Suber. The other actors in this film and I think the act in this film was extremely good. But then there was Max fun side of innocence who is perhaps best known in this country because he recently played the Christ in that castle a film of Stevens called The Greatest Story Ever Told. But he was the knight in the seventh really was in The Virgin Spring the magician through a glass darkly went a lot. I read Anderson that you saw here absolutely fantastically in my opinion an attractive seductive feminine woman never seen such a.
Talk about you know Kim Novak I mean Novak is can be gotten stuff. This is really a woman that is very sexy as they say. She was in Smiles of a summer night at last and loving through a glass darkly. Going to one strand I suppose. He's been in Paki everything including this seven serial wild strawberries everything going to Lindblom is another one a remarkable woman activist and Bibi Andersson that there are two Andersen's Bibi and how it also quite attractive she's done a number on Ingrid to one who was into silence and went to light. And this is another great strength of Bergman's films. This way the bagman makes films he running as an interview in Playboy you know Playboy really has gotten very highbrow and I have quite the good these Playboy interviews this one a couple years ago out. He says.
What worries me about making a film in another country is a loss of artistic control I might run into when I make a film I must control it from the beginning until it opens in the movie houses. I grew up in Sweden I have my roots here and I'm never as frustrated professionally here at least not by producers. That's this column and the diamond that I was mentioning I've been working with Eventually the same people for nearly 20 years they watched me grow up. The technical demands of movie making are enslaving but here everything runs smoothly in human times. The camera man the operator the head electrician we all know and understand one another. I hardly need tell them what to do. This is ideal and it makes the creative task always a difficult one easier. And. Of course you see the point here this goes to this question of the movies being and collective on. And yet one in which the director merely must or must dominate if it's to come to anything and the first part of which he says that he's always made
movies in which he has been the dominating factor decided what to be done about then when he points out that he has built up over 20 years this group of photographers and cameramen technicians and actors and actresses who know how to work with them. That's one reason that his films are so extraordinarily good. It's very interesting to me for instance that I consider that silence. His latest film really. I consider the silence is not terribly interesting film because as with Antonioni as I said it seems to me that his content is extremely thin and in it I'm not very much interested in what he has to say. But I must say that when I saw it I felt heavens here is somebody who really handles the medium with an ease that you know that you really don't usually see in filmmaking and it's a kind of absolutely effortless instinctive thing which you feel that he can really do
anything he wants to with it. It's among the most beautifully made film about this is the result of 20 years of this kind of production with building up this kind of an organization and so on. Now on this film that we've just seen the naked Knight. Well first of all the time is around 900. This is to some extent a costume picture. The time is 900 and the place is a small town in Sweden. And in the first 15 minutes of the film after about buffets for five minutes there's a sequence of about eight or nine minutes in a flashback sequence which is one of the greatest things in film and which is a perfect illustration of what Eisenstein a guy and I were talking about in their famous manifesto on the sound film of 1929 that I have. How did it fall and their main point was that sound should be used
in a contrapuntal montage with the image it should not be just what the image is science I want but it should be. Contrast that with the image in order to deepen the film out. First of all the photography is extremely good it seems to me and the photographer interesting enough. His name is Mike first. Anyway after this movie some time Fisher began to be the photographer for Bragman and he made all the other big famous movies until with the beginning of the trilogy Through A Glass Darkly suddenly this knight first comes back again as a photographer because that's interesting too that there are only two photographers really involved in all of Blackman's great films. Another thing that is very important in this film I would say is the musical score. In fact considering this was made in 1953 this musical score is very much in advance but you couldn't help noticing it certainly in that great opening sequence of the flashback of the guns and
soldiers and so on. Now the musical score was by a musician a composer who was never used again by Bregman for summing the rather I don't know why not it too bad because I think he's much the best his name as a blonde. And he made a statement on writing music for movies which is quite interesting on a lot of what he did here he says. Should the film be so designed of such a structure that it is not suitable for a musical accompaniment sound effects alone are to be preferred. And in fact in this film he often does have either silence or just dialog or actually only sound effects and when he doesn't he tends to use any cheap circus music. Well of course that's really common with the setting and so on but I think it goes deeper than that for instance one of the writers at that thing with the soldiers and the woman that takes a clothes off at the beach one of the things about it is this banal little
tune that keeps coming in all the time and finally you become is to hang yourself just like the clown. As the tune keeps minus the repeating itself and then this tune as you probably know is comes in again. Number of times during the film at certain Porton moments and even WANT to a particular tune isn't used the music tends to behave out of the trivial popular kind and played on very cheap instruments. This is a device I would say rather which true for hours done a great deal with and shoot the pianist on especially in Jules and Jim. It's you might call it the opposite of Hollywood mood music or the kind of music that you get let's say in a movie like a pawn bucket. The opposite of that kind of music because it plays against the action it doesn't support emotionally the mood it doesn't build it up at all on the contrary it's counterpoint against it it plays against it. When Doug goes on he says I'm convinced that a feature film that I met of the prevalent musical
hodgepodge and wake with only speech and sound effects would have a strong impact on modern music. I say when the film came out it was denounced by the leading critics in Stockholm and one of them said I we fused the view of the vomit Bregman is left behind and this time it was also a flop at the box office. And in this country as well as in Sweden and then also over here. It was only reviewed by Newsweek in the nation and the National Parent Teacher and Newsweek gave the film the most favorable review considering that Mab Adar an oddity. It was the most favorable national parent teaches this solemn self-conscious drama from Sweden is full of mood photography and gloomy preoccupation with sex well acted but strangely dated in treatment. Well it is time they did because it happens to be in 1900. And of course that's
another thing about the film its value. I think absolutely marvelous not only the period of feeling of it but also the way in which the costumes and pageantry and cost privately. Cited and cheap pageantry of the both the theater and the psyche is constantly used as a device and composing while in costuming and composing the pictures and the whole thing is in that kind of a style because it's a very artificial kind of film in one way at the same time is a very realistic film too it seems to me that it deals with real people but in a artificial situation. Bergman said after the film was such a failure he says the criticism was universally devastating. The public stayed away the producer was counting his losses. Oh and by the way this is the only one of his films as far as I can make out that wasn't produced by Col. diamond. It was produced by another producer and apparently the script was
turned down by the Swedish film industry. Which is too pat in fact but anyway and I myself have to write 10 years for my next in this John said. But mind if I do one of two more pictures that result in an economic loss there but there was a rightly feels he downed that gold in my talents any more. Well of course as I've pointed out this is a typical reaction of a sense of as he didn't have to wait 10 years he only waited two years really before he made his next real Bergman film. But it was I discovered you know at the time you have been listening to Dwight MacDonald on film in this program. Mr. McDonald has discussed the film since 1950. Part two Ingmar Bergman. These programs were drawn from Mr. McDonald's like your series during his recent tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism about the University of Texas. This series was produced by
- Dwight Macdonald on film
- The Film since 1950: Bergman
- Producing Organization
- University of Texas
- KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- The Film Since 1950: Bergman; Naked Light
- Series Description
- Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
- Film and Television
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Announcer: Miller, Phil
Producer: Jordan, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-16-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- MLA: “Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Bergman.” 1967-05-31. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 23, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9c6s2t83>.
- APA: Dwight Macdonald on film; The Film since 1950: Bergman. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9c6s2t83