Larmar och gör sig till (In the Presence of a Clown)
Dir: Ingmar Bergman 1996, 119 min.
Remember that Stephen King book about a creepy clown and references to sinking and floating... and a couple of fart jokes for good reference? Well this is Bergman’s version of that. Well not really, but I did think about IT as I watched and also found a nod to HP Lovecraft too but oh yeah, King never fucked Death in the ass in his version did he?
I’ve mentioned Bergman’s passion for screwing around with format and his meta use of media’s in his films, this is definitely no exception even though it’s a play shot for tv... a play shot for tv. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance that’s all about a musician. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman...
Still keeping up? As you see it’s Bergman’s inception, a meta referent to practically all media’s as hand. And it’s spectacular one too as it tells its tale of Engineer Åkerblom (Börje Ahlstedt) and his dream of inventing and touring with the worlds first ever synchronized talking cinematograph. Along follow his fiancé Pauline Thibault (Marie Richardson) and his [asylum] friend Oswald Vogler (Erland Josephson).
As almost always it’s self referent too, and Bergman can be seen in the hallway of the mental institute. There’s a couple of detailed descriptions of grotesqueries and the metaphoric clown, or death I’d say, lurking in the shadows, teasingly summoned by Schubert’s "Der Leiermann".
Then as the film moves into its second half and one realizes what a hell of a cast he has here! A cast of almost all the big names of the Royal Dramaic Theatre... and they’re all here for a play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman.
If you’re lucky to be living in Schwedenland, well then you can check this out and the short “making of” on Svt’s open archive. Easily worth the three hours watch.
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Together with the legendary Fred, we talk about stuff, genrefare and the alternative history of film, and I guarantee that for each episode, you'll have learned something that you didn't know when you hit play.
in the eighties as part of the Douglas Copeland coined term, Generation X, you
know that he hit something right on the head when he wrote that passage describing
a generation of kids fearing each sudden bright burst of light and every
shrilling siren drill as The End, as they instinctively died with the fearful
knowledge that it was the sign of the Cold War Atomic Bomb apocalypse galloping
in. That’s a difficult fear to explain to generations further on down the line
where we find a cynic generation of kids raised on screaming YouTube superstars,
revenge porn on Instagram and live suicide, streaming on Facebook …
But it certainly
seems like we’re back there again knocking on the door of the apocalypse, and there’s
an obvious reason that stuff that I guess we could best label “anti-nostalgia horror”,
(because there’s no warm feelings about them at all), are popping up on the
radar again. Specifically, trauma inducing television fare that we all saw,
because every bloody country lived in the same fear and screened these damned
things to keep us scared shitless. Suff like Nicholas Meyers 1983 TV movie The
Day After followed by 1984 BBC television drama Threads (just released on
Bluray by Severin films), one of the most harrowing and realistic UK TV movies
to ever portray life after the big bomb. And I remember that bastard thing and
there was another one that was in serial format which saw the few survivors
roaming the moors in images that looked like the places I grew up roaming… Traumatizing
is the word, that terrifying sensation when you can emotionally relate to the
horror on screen, and it’s not make-believe monsters, but a scenario that could
become real at any time!
that set up I’d like to point your attention at the movie in focus here today. Ingmar
Bergman’s Shame, (Skammen) from 1968, his final black and white movie (The Rite
was for TV). Now this idea of mine of watching Bergman as horror might come off
as far-fetched, but it certainly isn’t. I’ve been pondering this for so many
years that when I watch these films I see it clear as day right in front of me
on the screen.
I say that
Bergman IS horror, after all the definition of Horror as described by the
Cambridge English Dictionary is “an extremely strong feeling of fear and shock,
or the frightening and shocking character of something”, of which you’ll find
elements of in almost of his work.
The Hour of
the Wolf was a no-brainer, it’s visuals of horror shock and fever dream images
are undoubtedly fear inducing material, but let’s get down to real horror.
Horror so real that you can feel it fucking punching you from the dark shadows
of the screen, which is how I experienced The Shame. The pending doom of
tells the tale of a couple, Jan and Eva Rosenberg (Sydow and Ullman), who just
like Johan and Alma in The Hour of the Wolf have isolated themselves on an
island. Or so we’re led to believe. They lead their smalltime life of
self-sufficiency with small gardens and chickens. They are in the midst of life
and like most of Bergman’s couples have indifferences in the relationship that
surface and cause conflict between the two. But the real trouble starts when
the peace and quiet is shattered by an invasion. The war has been closing in on
the small island. Their friends are drafted, to fight an unwinnable war. And
then finally one night it hits an airstrike, complete with paratroopers who get
stuck in the trees.
stomps in in the shape of the invasion, death (animals lay dead in their
pasture), destruction and the enemy army, who harass the couple fording them to
make statements (that later will be faked to pro-invader propaganda). The
leader of the invading/opposing army is former town mayor Colonel Jacobi (Gunnar
Björnstrand) who helps them off the hook with the unspoken but obvious favor of
being intimate with Eva something he continues misusing after the occupation.
area that one should really look into when it comes to Bergman is the real of
Eros and Thanatos as Shame really wanders the fine line between life and death.
The first scene is of nudity, and the final scene is of death. It’s also in the
relationship between Eva and Jan and the way they discuss a possible child or
not. Life and death. And there’s Jaccobi who clearly feeds off the sexual occupation
of Eva, the conquest of his power, but in the end, it’s the same sex, his abuse
of power versus the frustration and hate that the pendulum movement have created
that sees him defeated.
But perhaps the most disturbing thing with Shame is the emotional recognition
of the powerlessness that Jan and Eva end up in, and the understanding of the
terrible acts they do, are acts primarily done to survive. And the price is a
high one to pay at the atrocious and terribly bleak finale. A bleakness that is
horrifically close to the reality of today as Jan and Eva push their boat over
the corpses of drowned misfortunate refugees in the cold waters of the sea they
are escaping over. This movie is unlike something like Hour of the Wolf with it’s
horror fantastic, a harrowing piece of horror realism, and that’s why it’s more
disturbing than most of Bergman’s straight forays into horror themed film, as
horror in reality will always be more terrifying than fantastic horror which we
primarily use for escapism.
time I watched Vargtimmen, or Hour of the Wolf, it was as if lightning struck. That’s
where the seed to me thinking of Bergman as horror was born. Yes, obviously
because it’s considered his horror film, but also because he mastered the emotions,
atmosphere and visuals of that genre so elegantly.
This is my
third re-watch of Vargtimmen, and with the fresh read of the short story (which
was part of the course I’m on), the movie doesn’t gain any extra points. It
builds brilliantly and it has that fanatic crescendo ending with the faux necrophilia
and fuckery with the human psyche.
Von Sydow), an artist and his pregnant wife Alma (Liv Ullman) spend the summer
on a small remote island. Soon the idea of an idyllic summer becomes something
completely different as Johan starts acting strange – that Bergmaninan
theme of psychosis. The first half of the piece is more or less about
establishing characters, the second a nightmarish fever-dream that could
challenge many Gothic horrors when it comes to creepy visuals and themes.
Seriously. It does. I watched Black Sunday just a few nights ago, and at times
the images and atmos are very similar.
going to get into any form of analysis, I'm quite sure viewers will all find
different things and meanings in this film but I will mention GUILT! Bergman
uses guilt like a magician in Hour of the Wolf, because like I said, this is
horror of the human psyche, Johan has a lot of things in his life that he feels
guilty for. Dark things that are tormenting him profoundly. Tormenting him
to such an extent that he looses his mind and goes bat shit bonkers. Hence the
reason for Bergman finally, and I mean FINALLY showing us his visions of insanity.
Unlike the films where we’ve head about the void, the spider-god and other
terrors that torment his characters, The Hour of the Wolf takes us there… because
he’s set up the rules for this specific film. "The hour between night and dawn. The hour when most people die,
when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when
the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fears, when ghosts and demons are
most powerful, the hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are
scene early on where Johan shows his secret sketches to Alma. We never see them
but the way Johan describes the terrifying beings he's sketched, it's clear
that he's been observing something terrible. It’s a classic moment of tell don’t
show, the best way to fill the viewers mind with images way better than
anything a special effects studio could come up with. Perhaps it doesn’t really
pay off in the film, but does oh so mindboggling in the novel. Bergman would
use this kind of approach in several other works, amongst them Persona when
Alma (Bibi Andersson) tells Elisabeth (Liv Ullman) of shocking sexual adventures
But what differs
the two is that the novel is really a damned straight up horror story complete
with equivoque descriptions and Lovecraftian “vague enough to put images in
your head descriptions” of monsters and the deadly void. (Seriously I’d highly recommend
reading the short, it’s only a few pages and would take you like half an hour
half of the film is horror and boy are horror themes used. Murder, ghosts and
even a flirt with necrophilia – as Ingrid Thulin lies naked upon a table top.
Bergman pulls the old "based on true events" trick as this one
starts, making us believe that the story is of the night when Johan Borg
suddenly went missing one night as noted in his diaries, and his wife Alma's
retelling of the events to Bergman. It’s basically the same way Texas
A couple of
meta references are here, there’s more of them than you’d expect in someone
like Bergman’s work) and I’m starting to spot them frequently In his stuff.
First off during the opening credits, carpentry and set-building can be heard.
All of this ends when Bergman is heard shouting, Silence! Action! And the movie
starts. Secondly the music from The Magic Flute. Music that was of deep
importance to Bergman. During the night at Baron Von Merken's (Erland
Josephson) castle they watch a rendition of Mozart's The Magic Flute. A few
years later Bergman would direct his award winning and academy award nominated
version. Thirdly, Bach's Partita, which he uses in The Hour of the Wolf and
also used in Shame (Skammen) and The Passion of Anna (En Passion) the two films
that followed Hour of the Wolf. All three films are commonly referred to as the
Angst trilogy. One of the subtler ones is the doodling on Johan's diary, it's a
chessboard. A referent to The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet).
Hour of the
Wolf, weird, dark and definitely one of Bergman's movies that gets the closest
to the horror genre. A definitive recommendation if you like your horror
suggestive, surreal and downbeat.