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The speaking part in The Stronger , called Mrs X, accuses the silent part, called Miss Y, of taking over her life the way a worm eats an apple from the inside, leaving only an empty shell. Naturally, critics have paid adequate attention to his reliance on close-ups. Even if Bergman was influenced by Strindberg and Kaila, he would still need to develop his own techniques in order to give his themes a powerful form. A consideration of the films he made over a span of six decades suggests that he was still learning his craft in the s while his s films demonstrate an ability to move across genres such as comedies, youth films and historical epics with ease and a command of filmic forms.

One way to see how he developed as a filmmaker is to look for influences from other films in how he composed the dramatic material. These are comedies that centre on a kind of remarriage that enabled a story of adultery that was otherwise regulated against in Hollywood Cavell , see also Orr With Bergman in charge of both script and direction, he builds scenes that suggest his cynical views of love and how it leads to an uneven distribution of power.

Bergman puts Carlqvist in the foreground of a two-shot figure 1 , in a close-up and with her glancing towards the camera, not her listener, in a way that forebodes a frequent set-up for dialogue in his s work for more detail, see Riis Unsurprisingly, in his s work, we find films that are unremarkable and mediocre in his treatment of the material. In Kris Crisis , , his first film as a director, Bergman appears to lack the skills necessary for a shot-based composition of dialogue scenes, for instance cutting across eye-lines, in a way that puts the spectators close to the action.

Bergman was a successful stage director at this point, having attracted audiences as well as state support to his theatre in Helsingborg, but naturally this does not guarantee a mastery of filmmaking, in part because of his dependency on collaborators. To Joy is conventional in terms of how he builds his scenes and, unsurprisingly, contemporary critics were not pleased. A striking difference is that working-class lives populate his s films whereas, later, middle-class professionals and artists make up the vast majority.

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Perhaps his stylistic debt to French filmmakers of the s is revealing of how his themes can fit into different stylistic schemes. Bergman was not only deploying narrative templates and stylistic options that were already in place, he was also an innovator who found new ways of building scenes and employing actors.


I wish to examine here the extent to which Bergman developed techniques for staging dialogue scenes in a way that takes them beyond a naturalist conception. A naturalist conception entails, here, the idea that characters are in a self-contained world and face each other in a dialogue, neither the camera nor the audience; it further entails the idea of dialogue as an exchange of to-and-fro, almost a battle, with subtexts.

Ingrid Thulin plays Cecilia, one of three women at a maternity ward who experience complications as well as marital problems. She notes that women like her are too independently minded for a constraining marriage yet too weak to break out for fear of what life in solitude might look like. The dialogue, in other words, changes the nature of the situation since Cecilia speaks her mind and attends to the bleak implications, not the response of her sister-in-law, and Ingrid Thulin conveys an attentional shift by glancing downwards and sideways as she delivers her lines figure 2.

In contrast, in a number of similar scenes from his chamber films, Bergman puts his actors in a two-shot when they deliver lines with an existential theme.

Rather than facing each other, characters both glance towards the camera during an intimate and confidential scene. The younger sister Gunnel Lindblom in The Silence can express her deep-seated anger and grievances at her older sister Ingrid Thulin , while the latter is a passive receiver, at least until the roles are reversed.

Once Bergman discovered this kind of frontal staging of two characters, he need not always rely on a two-shot.

The Films of Ingmar Bergman

In Persona , in a close-up, the doctor Margaretha Krook can express her disillusionment with life and how suicide is an unattractive alternative figure 6 , while her patient Liv Ullman listens silently in a separate shot. What should interest us, in this particular context, is the staging and character motivations that Bergman imaginatively comes up with in order to give actors a space in which they can deliver vulnerable and intimate lines without imposing a to-and-fro movement during the exchange. While this is exceptionally original in its conception, other variations alter the distance between characters or who is at the front.

If we compare these scenes to the scene from Brink of Life , and consider how the latter might have benefitted from a similar staging and camera set-up, given the nature of the dialogue, it becomes clear that Bergman developed this technique in a systematic way. By themselves, these lines resemble a soliloquy in content, but rather than trying to hide this, he positions the spectator close enough to the speaker in order to influence the spectator to sit quietly and listen, struck by the intimacy with and vulnerability of the speaker.

One is the scene from Smiles of a Summer Night , mentioned above where Charlotte Margit Carlqvist expresses her hatred and love for her husband, and her own self-loathing, while Anne Ulla Jacobsson listens in the back see, again, figure 1. Another precursor is from The Seventh Seal in which Max von Sydow delivers the lines of Antonius Block, the knight and crusader, as though he is making a grand speech.

Even when he is part of an ordinary interaction, such as a shared meal, he will suddenly reflect upon the situation, appraising its existential meaning and setting his character apart from the rest by the sheer weight of his concerns figure 9.

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In neither of these films is this staging technique used systematically for multiple characters at emotional high points, whereas Bergman would later, especially in his chamber films, build scripts and scenes around the aesthetic potential of his technique for staging introverted moments. Strindberg first wrote his chamber plays for a small theatre, Intima Teatern in Stockholm, a small stage with a small number of seats 6 metres by 9 metres in size, with seats.

He was influenced by Japanese acting schools as well as placing the art direction somewhere between symbolism and realism; in a letter to one of his actresses, he underlined the need to speak slowly, in legato , while avoiding unnecessary gestures and stage business such as props Marker and Marker With simplicity one wins the solemn calm and quiet in which the artist can hear his own part. With simple decor the really important points become evident: the personality, the part itself, the speech, the action, and the facial expressions. When Bergman set out as a filmmaker, Hollywood cinema had already found a shot-based way of constructing scenes. - Ingmar Bergman's Persona as a modernist example of media determinism

This included the use of establishing shots that would make the spectator aware of spatial relations before cutting across eye-lines during an exchange, thus guiding the spectator to look for reactions given off by the speaker or listener, effectively attuning the spectator to the subtext of lines. The drawback, perhaps, to this formula of building a scene is that actors, directors and scriptwriters are invited to think of dialogue and the exchange of verbal information in terms of a battle, a back and forth.

If Bergman wanted to his actors to deliver a series of lines in order to develop a thought and express how they feel, the conventional technique would put too much emphasis on the listener. There is not only a communicative dimension to his approach, as the spectator is moved closer to a vulnerable speaker; there is also an artistic dimension in which the actor can deliver lines without having a listener in his or her visual field, thus permitting the actor to concentrate on the verbal content of the lines.

Arguably, this appraisal presupposes the norms of auteurism in which the critic is supposed to look for consistency of theme and style; I have argued here that an equally fruitful approach may look for variations and developments. The marriage of style and material need not always be as fortuitous as, for example, Persona or Smiles of a Summer Night , but it does not detract from their value that Bergman also directed less successful films. Madison, Wis. University of Wisconsin Press.

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Berkeley: University of California Press. Borden, Diane M. Carringer, Robert L. Cambridge, Mass.

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Original edition, Anonymously edited collection of material organized according to productions: Crisis, Ship to India, and To Joy. Accessed on 1 April, Johns, Marilyn E. Nora, Sverige: Nya Doxa. Nordic Film Classics. Reviews Schrijf een review.

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