Dispatch from Sweden Part Two: Bergman Week

by robbiefreeling
July 2, 2008 8:30 AM
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The view from my window, yup.


A film festival unlike any other, Bergmanvecken (or Bergman Week), now in its fifth year in operation and its first incarnation since the death of the man at its center last July, is a celebration of location as much as film. For Swedish cinema, Ingmar Bergman was always a one-man-show, its industry glue, its irreproachable standard-bearer, its looming demon genius—and he has been resented throughout the industry for the past half-century nearly as often as he's been embraced. Not so on Fårö, the island located on the northern tip of Gotland, where he made his permanent residence for decades even as he lived and worked in Stockholm during the off seasons.

Viewed by his fellow islanders less as an irascible titan of cinema than as a peaceful fixture and neighbor, Bergman might have brought renown and a new economic dimension to an area previously known mainly for its fishing and agriculture, yet by keeping his beloved natural paradise (marked on the west side by barren, stony shores and arresting rock formations, and on the east its lush, green pastures, all surrounded by the glistening expanses of the Baltic Sea) a private, inner sanctum of artistic inspiration, the superstar filmmaker treated Fårö's native villagers with the utmost respect.

They have returned the favor by greeting an annual festival in his honor with a surprising enthusiasm. Attendance at the events for Bergman Week, which vary among screenings, panels, lectures, and even bus tours (of all the local spots where Bergman shot his handful of Faro productions, including Through a Glass Darkly, Shame, The Passion of Anna, and his masterpiece, Persona), seemed appealingly divided between local islanders and out-of-towners. For the Bergman aficionado, the chance to see The Seventh Seal and the magnificent, if underseen, early film Summer Interlude (the former introduced by Margarethe von Trotta, the latter by Jan Troell, who each also presented a film of their own in the festival) while surrounded by the craggy, pebbled beaches and verdant pine forests that so moved the filmmaker was a truly rare delight; for those who lived on Fårö, this year's festival was an especially bittersweet chance to say farewell to a friend.

Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's second dispatch from Sweden.

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