The word cinéaste (someone with a great interest in film; a more vulgar version is film buff) is a french term that originates from the mixture of two words: cinéma and entousiaste.
This weekend at the National Gallery of Art there was an abbreviated film series in Bergman’s honor, at which his last film, Saraband, and a portrait of Bergman’s life on the Swedish island Fårö, Bergman Island, were shown today, Saturday. Tomorrow, Sunday, there is one other film, Sunday’s Children, which offers a view of Bergman’s childhood and is directed by his youngest son, Daniel.
The experience of spending 5 hours at the National Gallery of Art, watching work by and about a filmmaker that I enjoy so much, was sublime. Perhaps an additional delight was the collection of articles and interviews put together by the gallery, Scenes from a Life: Ingmar Bergman. I was particularly captivated by the following passage from the second chapter, titled “On Dreams, the Subconscious and Filmmaking”, of the book Film & Dreams: An Approach to Bergman. In it, Bergman relates,
Writing, filmmaking, and the creation of pictures are so extremely close to our dreams. . . .
Twice I have transferred dreams to film exactly as I had dreamed them. One is Wild Strawberries, the sequence with the coffin. Without any translation, it’s just put in as it occurred in my dream. The other film is The Naked Night, the first sequence with the clown and his wife.
Film has a very hypnotic effect on the audience. You sit there in a completely dark room, very anonymously. You look at a spot in front of you, and you don’t move. You sit and you don’t move, while your eyes are concentrated on that white spot on the wall. This is exactly what some hypnotists do. They light a spot on the wall and ask you to follow it with your eyes, while they talk to you and then they hypnotize you.
The film medium is some sort of magic. Also, it is magic that every frame comes and stands still for a fraction of a second and then it darkens. this means that half of the time while you watch a film, you remain in complete darkness. Isn’t that fascinating? That is magic. In this medium, as in music, we go straight to the feelings. Only afterwards we can start to work with our intellect. If the film is good, if the suggestions from the filmmaker are strong enough, they’ll stimulate your thoughts when you leave the screening room.
No more, no less. I can say, though, that I was sad to see the curtains drawn; the cinema fostered a wonderful moment that lasted all afternoon. Perhaps it is why I do enjoy films by Buñuel and Bergman so much; I may leave the theater, but the feelings channeled through their work remain with me still.