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Ingmar before Bergman

Some unpublished pictures, sketchbooks and manuscripts donated by the legendary Ingmar Bergman to the Swedish Film Institute is going on a tour.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2003 18:44 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

A sample of unpublished photographs, sketchbooks, diaries and manuscripts donated by legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to the Swedish Film Institute is going on a European tour later this month.

The exhibition, called Ingmar before Bergman, opens in Helsinki on August 27, and will then continue to Paris in September, followed by Rome and Turin. It contains items found in 45 boxes given by Bergman to the film institute two years ago and which researchers have been sorting, classifying, reading and reproducing in an attempt to get a little closer to the enigma that is Bergman.

"We know a lot about Bergman, but this is totally new material," Aina Bellis, who is in charge of the exhibition, told a news conference Thursday. "This is a way of seeing inside his head. One realizes that the themes of his films were already very much in evidence when Bergman was young," she said.

Bergman, who is 85, directed landmark films including Scenes from a Marriage, Autumn Sonata and Fanny and Alexander. The archives go back to the 1930s and offer, for the first time, a fascinating glimpse of Bergman during the early years, the basis for the cinema genius that was to give the adult Bergman world fame.

Maaret Koskinen, film critic and professor at Stockholm university, said Bergman telephoned her in 1998, five years after she had published the first Swedish doctorate thesis on his work."I have a room full of stuff in my house in Faaroe," she quoted Bergman as saying at the end of the conversation.

"It's a hell of a mess," Bergman said, referring to the content of the room in his home on the Baltic island. In June 2000, Koskinen went to Faaroe, lured by the prospect of finding the keys to unlock Bergman's secrets in the mass of private papers.

Bergman gave her unlimited access, and like a child in a candy store, she explored, rummaged, and devoured the treasures for a full six months. Later an Ingmar Bergman foundation was created, run by two of the director's daughers, Linn Ullman and Eva Bergman.

There has been much speculation why Bergman, a private, secretive person, would authorize publication of the writings of his youth while still alive. Perhaps he wanted to avoid the sale of bits and pieces to collectors after his death, and the donation was a good way to keep the papers together.

Another reason, muses Koskinen, was probably that he did not want his heirs to fight over the treasures of cinema history they might find in the room on the island. And treasures they are.

In rounded handwriting resembling delicate endless waves the young Bergman wrote his screenplays in lined scrapbooks, or in pupils' exercise books, adding dialogue, doodles and drawings.

For example, Bergman lovers will delight in scholarly debates to come about why there is a little red devil embossed on the cover of one hardcover notebook entitled Fanny and Alexander. And as they pore over pictures, they will find that caustic humour he put in his films was already visible in his smile on a picture of him in school uniform, dated 1937.

The institute is planning to make hundreds of the documents available online, to allow researchers, students and film lovers everywhere to peruse them at their leisure. Bergman's latest work, Saraband, is produced for television and will be brodcast by Swedish state TV in the autumn.

It features Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman, who as Johann and Marianne played the leading roles in Scenes from a Marriage in 1972.

First Published: Aug 18, 2003 15:12 IST