THE SCREEN: I Am A Conjurer

  • Share
  • Read Later

(See Cover) Wound in eye, blood in mouth, fingers off, neck broken. He calls you down, he calls you forth, beyond the dead, the living, the living dead.

—The Magician

A demon is haunting the movie world. It looks, as many have remarked, like a brilliantly personable werewolf. The figure is tall, bony and shambling. The green eyes burn with strange intensity in a high, narrow skull. The teeth are long and peculiarly pointed. The smile is a little twisted, evoking for the nightmare-prone the grimace of a hanged man. The demon is in effect an immensely creative spirit which has seized for its habitation the son of a Swedish parson, and for its instrument the motion-picture camera.

In 16 years of labor this spirit has driven Sweden's Ernst Ingmar Bergman to produce an enormous canon of cinema, comprising 22 feature films and at least four other scripts, that merges into a single vast and violent masterpiece, a work of volcanic profundity and sometimes tumid pretentiousness, of snorting pornography, sly comedy and ripe ironic wisdom—a sort of serial Faust.

What is more, Bergman's work is all Bergman, and few film directors can make a similar claim. He creates his own pictures from the first line of the script to the last snip of the cutting shears, working with concentrated fury; in spring he customarily collapses in a Stockholm hospital, nurses an imaginary ulcer, and dictates two screen plays in about six weeks. Apart from his film work, Bergman has established himself as the top director of the Swedish stage by a long chalk, was recently named manager of Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theater. He also finds time to direct dozens of plays for Swedish radio and television—and to live a private life that most men would consider a career in itself. Says a Hollywood admirer: "Bergman is Sweden's Zanuck, Kazan, Tennessee Williams and Playhouse 90 rolled into one."

Visions at the Box Office. In the last four years the films of Ingmar Bergman (pronounced Bear ih mahn), almost unknown outside Sweden before 1956, have captured an impressive amount of screen-time in more than a dozen countries. One after another—Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Brink of Life, The Magician—they have carried off top prizes at the big film festivals and set the turnstiles twirling on the commercial circuits as no Scandinavian film has done since Garbo was a girl. And last week Stockholm was looking aghast at the latest product of Bergman's imagination, a religious horror picture called The Virgin Spring (TIME, Feb. 29) that contains "the most terrible rape and murder scenes ever seen in a film." A Stockholm critic called it "Bergman's best."

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8
  10. 9
  11. 10