It’s said that every system produces exactly the results it is designed to produce, a particularly difficult axiom in the case of the quintessential European art film director. Operating with an ever-evolving but tiny stable of actors from his roots in Chekhov and Strindberg, INGMAR BERGMAN (1918–2007) traversed the landscapes of conflict and despair like a Scandinavian crusader, pausing briefly to kill God and invent the reset button. Recycling the same faces, names, plot points and themes through decades of seasons would make for sadomasochistic community theater, but Bergman recognized the film camera’s power to disrupt and reorganize a familiar dynamic, especially when it was pointed at those wondrous faces, Thulin and von Sydow and Ullmann and the Anderssons. A scene that could feel like tech rehearsal after a Swedish whitecap and cirrus montage (experienced by a majority of viewers in subtitle literature) became something else completely when it suddenly ripped you out of your seat and placed you within the breath of Bibi Andersson’s sexual confessions or Max von Sydow’s nuclear angst. Often parodied for making nihilism accessible, even entertaining, Bergman endures for the grudging smiles he induces at the recognition of damage done to self and family, and for exploring the near impossibility of connection in the very places we’ve most intentionally designed for it.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Northrop Frye, Woody Guthrie, Angelique Kidjo, Gerald Finzi, Gertrude Bell.
READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).