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Summer Interlude (Ingmar Bergman - 1951)

(27/04/2005)

It's the second time I've seen this film, at home, on DVD...

Memory. It's a film about memory, and innocence, and growing up. About the walls that we build around ourselves as we get older.

The actress playing Marie does a brilliant job of portraying both the jaded 28 year old ballerina and her carefree 18 year old self... I loved the film. I loved the early, innocent first love story between Henrik and Marie, the cynical Uncle Erland, himself damaged, and determined to drag Marie into his twisted realm because she reminds him of the woman he did truly love and never really had. Clearly the villain, and yet still clearly human. Cunning manipulator, and yet it is his action, perhaps designed to draw her close to him, which catalyses Marie to draw closer to herself - catalyses the re-knitting of her heart.

On one level it is a beautiful love story, sweetly told, and that would be enough. Then it has a philosophical theme, of masks and meaning. The cynical Uncle Erland tells the young and heartbroken Marie that in the end everything is meaningless, and therefore one should guard against caring too much about anything. Later, in the dressing room, the dance director also tells her that everything is meaningless, but he is no cynic. When the mask is removed, the face beneath is found to be smiling, for no particular reason. This is profound stuff. So profound it is almost banal. Being happy for no reason. We like to pretend that our tragedies are truly tragic, but somewhere deep down we know they don't really matter, and we don't really mind.

"Look in the mirror Marie, see how ridiculous you are. Afraid to take the make-up off; afraid to put it on." Those moments of clarity in the dressing room of life where we are in the process of changing masks are rare bardos - nodes in time and space where change and realisation can happen - when magic can happen - where choices are made that will determine the trajectory of our lives - at least until the next bardo.

More and more I see a world that art points to but can never explicitly describe. It is a world outside memory - just can't be described - and yet it is the most familiar place: it is the home of all of us and we all know that. It is the source of all well-being.

We have a choice: tie ourselves up in linguistic knots trying to describe it, or point to it with art. Otherwise just live in it and keep quiet...

A deep treatise on human nature - good and evil, happiness and misery - masquerading as a lyrical love story. This is an early Bergman film, and one of his very best.

(03:49 13/06/07... I just remembered the Lindsay Anderson film, Oh Lucky Man, ends with the exact same 'smile for no reason'.)



Copyright 2005 Paul Mackilligin