Evergreen director still makes waves

According to Danish film director Lars Von Trier, "the only mistake Ingmar Bergman made was not dying”.

A curious comment from a neighboring Dane—who shares with Bergman a love for the Danish silent filmmaker Carl Dreyer. Von Trier recorded his thoughts on video, and they were added on to the other accolades given to Ingmar Bergman during a recent seminar on Ingmar Bergman held in Stockholm.

Some of Bergman’s films, such as Persona, were “difficult”, said Von Trier. But, he added , there was “even a little aura of the pop group ABBA about Bergman”.

By this he meant that some films were able to reach a general audience, such as Scenes from a Marriage (1976), a TV drama made into a theatrical release. The film is supposed to have raised the divorce rate in Sweden.

It is important to put Von Trier’s comments in perspective. For many young directors during the 1980’s, Bergman ”spoiled their careers” with his cinematic wonders. Many of them tried to make films exactly like him.

One of these was Reza Bargher, director of the box office success Wings of Glass (2000) about intercultural relationships in Sweden. His current film Popular Music from Vittula (2004), is based on a best selling Finnish novel by Mikael Niemi.

Bargher said he is glad that the octogenarian Ingmar Bergman “left the film scene”.

But has he for good? His latest film TV drama, Saraband, will be released in cinemas outside Sweden this year. The film was sold to distributors in Cannes before they had ever seen it. All Bergman has to whisper is “ I’ve got a craving to make something ”.

According to Marianne Ahrne, one of several film advisors who decides which films will get state funding, of 700 screenplays sent to the Swedish Film Institute during the past year and a half, she “hasn’t seen anything in the Bergman tradition”.

So unless the master wants to ”play again”, and despite having inspired countless directors from Woody Allen to Swedish director Suzanne Osten, the art house cinema director will remain in a class of his own.

Moira Sullivan

Moira Sullivan is a freelance journalist and member of the Swedish Film Critics’ Association