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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

A journo's last glimpse of Bergman's land

Geoffrey McNab was one of the last journalists to get near Ingmar Bergman, at last month’s Bergman Week on Faro Island. Excerpts: “He doesn’t have to meet people here. He can be alone with the stones and the heavens. It is good for the soul,” the actress Barbro Hjort af Ornas said of Faro, the remote, windswept island in the Baltic Sea where Ingmar Bergman died yesterday. She first met Bergman in the late 1930s, when she appeared in amateur plays that he directed. As a Faro resident, she understood why he sought refuge there. “The air is different, the light is different. There is a frontpage310707_252756b.jpgpeace you can get here – an absolute peace. No one to see and nothing to disturb you, just nature.” During the lectures and screenings devoted to Bergman, McNab writes, “it was midsummer. It didn’t get dark at all. Not that this changed the island’s eerie atmosphere. As Bergman testified, “my ghosts, my demons, phantoms and spirits never appear at night. They often appear in broad daylight.” … He had had a hip replacement and was reportedly confined to a wheelchair. His eyesight was fading and he had stopped watching films in that specially built cinema… There were rumours that he was beginning to deviate from the rigorous daily routine he had followed for so long – brisk early morning walk, three-hour writing stint, lunch, reading and then an afternoon film… Everyone was looking forward to his 90th birthday next July. Events were being planned all over the world: retrospectives, travelling exhibitions. Now, one guesses, these events will be rushed forward… In some quarters, there will be relief at Bergman’s passing. The Swedes, who sometimes gave the impression of being embarrassed by this monumental figure in their midst, will be able to honour him without reservation. The old spats – the battle with the tax authorities that led him to live in exile, the debates about his stifling effect on younger film-makers – will be forgotten. He will take his place in the list of their major cultural figures, at least the equal of his beloved Strindberg… There was something Prospero-like about Bergman on his island. He would talk without irony about the spirits who surrounded him on Faro. He needed his demons – his fear and rage. “Of course the demons have to be around,” he told his friend and fellow film-maker Jorn Donner. “But as long as I am in the studio or theatre, I control the universe and so the demons are automatically kept under control.” [More at the link.]

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“With every table in the dining room occupied and me, the only waiter, neglecting the needs of a good fifty patrons, I approached Roth. Holding out Balls as a numbness set into the muscles of my face, I spoke. “Sir, I’ve heard you say that you don’t read fiction anymore, but I’ve just had my first novel published and I’d like to give you a copy.”

“His eyes lifting from his iPhone, he took the book from my hands. He congratulated me. Then, staring at the cover, he said, “Great title. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.”

“These words worked on me like a hit of morphine. Like two hits. It felt as if I was no longer the occupant of my own body. The legs had gone weak, the ears warmed, the eyes watered, the heart rate increased rapidly. Barely able to keep myself upright, I told him, “Thank you.”

“Then Roth, who, the world would learn sixteen days later, was retiring from writing, said, in an even tone, with seeming sincerity, “Yeah, this is great. But I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”

“I managed, “It’s too late, sir. There’s no turning back. I’m in.”

“Nodding slowly, he said to me, “Well then, good luck.”

“After which I went back to work.”
~ Julian Tepper

“Any form of physical or sexual assault is a very serious matter, potentially a legal matter. But I’m also wondering, what about having some kind of “extreme asshole” clause? I know lots of people who have been abused verbally and psychologically. That’s traumatizing, too. What do we do with that?  It takes a lot of energy to be an asshole. The people I admire most just aren’t interested in things that take away from their ability to make stuff. The people I really respect, and that I’ve met who fit this definition, have a sense of grace about them, because they know that there is no evolving and there is no wisdom without humility. You can’t get better if you behave in a way that shuts people off. You can’t! You don’t have all the ideas necessary to solve something. You don’t! I’m sure if you spoke to Harvey in his heyday and said to him what I just said to you, he would believe that he accomplished all that he had because of the way he behaved.”
~ Steven Soderbergh