the man who brought us the haunting image of a medieval knight playing chess with Death in order to prolong his life has passed. the great swedish filmmaker, ingmar bergman, died today at the age of 89. i sent one friend an email early today and she told me, with some level of embarrassment, that she thought bergman had already passed.
those of us who knew and loved his work - knew better. i remember watching 'saraband' just a year or so ago (thank you, netflix, for carrying such small, foreign films) and welcomed the intimate conversations and relationships i came to expect from a bergman film.
i was first introduced to bergman back when i first began exploring woody allen. those who know me know i adore allen. and those who know allen know how much he admires bergman. the first bergman film i watched was perhaps his best known - 'the seventh seal.' being terribly afraid of death myself the film quickly captured my young and broadening college mind. the film even inspired my short play that was produced last year - 8:22. a man is deciding how to kill himself when Death arrives early - his watch running fast. when he explains that he is Death and the other character asks, "as in the grim reaper?" Death replies: "as in dancing my happy ass off in bergman's 'the seventh seal.' yes, bergman has influenced me too.
i love his morose subject matter interspersed with sudden and unexpected moments of humor. i admire his use of dialogue and characters as the tools of plot advancement, not silly plot points taken straight from writing 101.
and then there are the images. the knight and Death playing chess. the recently departed dancing off into the sunset. the oppressive red images of 'cries and whispers' (bergman said he always believed the soul was various shades of membrane red - and the movie was about the characters' souls).
allen paid homage to bergman's images and themes in the underrated 'interiors' and even borrowed the plot of 'wild strawberries' for his little seen 'deconstructing harry.'
bergman inspired much of modern cinema and he inspired me. i couldn't simply let his passing go by without notice. i hope he found the answers he had been searching for throughout his career. i hope his films continue to help me develop my own answers as i create new projects, fully aware that many artists before me continue to influence my work ahead of me.