This year Bergman would have been one-hundred years old. His mesmerizing masterpiece, an internal crisis displayed outwardly, a complaint about artists and form from one of the greatest artists of the form to ever live. His miniaturization of the art of film speaks more about his personal scars and battered soul, as he paints the screen with his blood and sweat and tears, than any anecdotal memoir ever could. He cuts open the film and spills out its guts for us to watch, transfixed, as he bares all.
Bergman creates a puzzle, all of the pieces there ready to be put back together, likely when it’s done it would show us an image of two faces bleeding into one. Bergman constructs this piece using not dreams or memories but fears; the same fears that any great artist faces at one point or another, staring yourself down in the mirror, naked and afraid, with only yourself to blame. Bergman sees himself and his films as one, they bleed together. Art, something he’s wasted his life on. Film, wasting his thoughts on. Him, wasting away. A feeling of uselessness, of coldness, of distance and longing for permanence. He shows us in graphic detail the way that film can burn up, jump from it’s sprocket, become unhinged like the minds of its characters, quickly becoming nothing but dust. Bergman is his characters and his films. If they survive, so does he.
Sitting in his hospital bed, Bergman imagined a film about love. A clinical, sterile film, about that illness of the soul. Bergman would even truly fall in love during the making of this film. He would find that often his art would imitate life as much as his life imitated his art. He displayed his demons and his prayers for the world to see. His love and his lust, his stubbornness and his laziness and his willingness to change. Like all the best artists, he had great compassion, but not to fault his honesty. “Out here, far away in our loneliness” Bergman may never have discovered who he is, but through this film he may have thwarted his fear of extinction, a man whose hope had eroded, and doubt was overcome by the darkness and silence. He was terrified. He had all the pieces, he just didn’t know how they fit. Didn’t know what the final image would be.
Written by Bryson Edward Howe