Wednesday, March 04, 2015

An Afternoon with Bergman - Ingmar Bergman

As editor of two art and literary journals, I have the pleasure of reading an amazing variety of submissions—gripping stories, inspiring characters, surprising endings. Of those pieces that are selected, I then have the delight of putting them in layout, which involves doing a very close read and creating the visual display, the "look and feel," that will enhance the telling of the story and the delivery of the message.

Today I had a very special treat. I was working on a piece that will appear in the upcoming summer issue of Stone Voices. Called "I'm Anxious, Mr. Bergman," by Leo Tracy, its story is entwined with that of the 1972 Ingmar Bergman film Cries and Whispers.

Tracy tells the story of a young man dealing with searing questions about life, love, joy, destiny, cruelty, and death. His internal struggle is made even more difficult because he is gripped by anxiety and OCD. While visiting his uncle, the young man goes to see Cries and Whispers—not ever an easy movie to watch, but far less easy while gripped with emotional fragility. As for me, a close read of this piece made me determined to see Cries and Whispers. So I checked Hulu for availability . . . and there it was.

The film tells the story of three sisters, one of whom is dying of cancer. Through flashbacks, the problems of the family are revealed: infidelity, jealousy, arrogance, and even hatred. This makes dealing with the death of a sibling extremely difficult. Only the family maid is able to comfort and care for the dying woman and does so out of genuine love and affection.

The film is a thing of beauty. Costumes and furnishings are splendid. Poses, postures, and facial expressions of characters are precise and expressive. The flow of the film is slow and serene, but also perfect; one can't rush through the kind of emotional spectacle presented here. Adding to the drama, the color red is used to punctuate scene changes and certain highly emotional moments. It is a memorable and complex creation.

"I'm Anxious, Mr. Bergman" is ultimately about the intertwining of life and art. We bring ourselves to art, our anxiety, sorrow, desperation, as well as joy, freedom, and sense of fulfillment. If we are open and engaged, art helps us churn through all the muddled pieces of our lives. Sometimes art is enjoyable and refreshing; sometimes it tears us wide open. But do it, we must. 

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