From Maya Deren to David Lynch, the cinematic “fever dream” has been conjured by many, but mastered by few.
Ingmar Bergman is undisputedly among those few. In the videos below, the master auteur’s poetic use of mirrors as visual motifs, his frequent staging of ghostly and demonic apparitions and other aesthetic elements of his depictions of the human brain’s subconscious netherworld are explored in detail.
Mirrors of Bergman
Video essayist kogonada’s “Mirrors of Bergman,” commissioned by Criterion, strings together shots that exemplify Bergman’s fascination with the strange power of mirrors. Doubled images of human faces and bodies and characters’ reflection and meditation on their sense of self and their lived experiences are put in focus, here, to underscore the director’s signature style.
This Criterion-produced video, “Bergman’s Dreams,” reflects on Bergman’s career-spanning efforts to distill the essence of his dreams into a surreal atmosphere that accentuates his films’ existentialist themes. Peering into Bergman’s thoughts on this process, the narrator leads in with a quote from the director: “Sometimes when I’m dreaming, I’ll think, ‘I’ll remember this. I’ll make a film of it. It’s a sort of occupational disease.'”
The Face and the Mirror [in the Films of Ingmar Bergman]
In this analytical reading of Bergman’s distinct use of close-up to examine the human face, Thomas Elsaesser celebrates, among other things, the way in which the director studies physiognomy as a way of building anticipation and heightening the emotionality of the events being observed by the faces in frame. Focusing on this aspect of Bergman’s style calls attention to his ability to strip down his subjects to represent raw states of fear, happiness and other fundamental human conditions. Bergman’s use of close-up as shown here also reminds us that, even when a mirror is not physically present in one of his shots, audiences are nonetheless forced to see the face peering back at them in a close-up as a mirror image of themselves, and, in turn, experience the reflecting quality of the mirror in a new way.
Watch these videos and let us know what you take away from Bergman’s dreamworld in the comments below. MM