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Monday December 10, 07:26 AM
By Eva Sohlman STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A few nights ago Ingmar Bergman dreamt that a large green shimmering bird came to him in a meadow, and they talked. "I am normally afraid of birds and have never dreamt of any big bird in my life," the Swedish film director told Reuters. Whether the bird was a harbinger of death, like the mysterious knight in Bergman's early success "The Seventh Seal", or something more private, he does not say. But he believes the bird was sent by his late wife Ingrid rather than a manifestation of the demons that have tormented and inspired him through his 60-year career. "The demons are innumerable, appear at the most inconvenient times and create panic and terror," Bergman said. "But I have learnt that if I can master the negative forces and harness them to my chariot, then they can work to my advantage." Bergman, whose masterpieces are bywords for an anguished Nordic outlook on life, told Reuters in a rare interview that he had never himself been through therapy. It has taken a lifetime to control the demons, with mineral water and biscuits while listening to Bach, the 83-year-old film icon said. Brisk walks and swims are also part of the Bergman remedy. But as Bergman knows, even ugliness can give birth to something fantastic. "Lilies often grow out of carcasses' arseholes," he laughed. Strolling through Stockholm's art nouveau Royal Dramatic Theatre, where he still works, Bergman points to the seat where he sat on his first visit. "I was 10 and went on my own. Seat number three. I was spellbound," he recalls. STILL THE DIRECTOR Bergman is now rehearsing Norwegian dramatist Ibsen's "Ghosts" in his own translation for the theatre, and plans to produce a play by Strindberg for radio in the spring. Strindberg is a powerful influence on Bergman who lives at the same address as the great Swedish writer did a century ago. "Strindberg runs like a steel column through my work," he said. Last month, Bergman, whose films include "Wild Strawberries", "Persona" and "Cries and Whispers", announced he would make a television film next year. The film, provisionally entitled "Don't Go", involves two of the characters from his much acclaimed television production "Scenes From a Marriage" of 30 years ago, but Bergman says it will not be a sequel. The self-taught director says he was inspired to create the new film's 10 dialogues which involve two couples linked to each other by way of a Bach cello sonata. Discipline, hard work and a lust to tell lie behind Bergman's work which encompasses 39 radio plays, 54 films and 126 theatre productions. "The feeling before starting rehearsals is exactly the same as I had as a child when I opened the door of the cupboard with my toys and decided which ones I would play with on that day," he said. "It is incredibly pleasurable." He traces his gift for story-telling to childhood Sundays, when his mother Karin read aloud as family and friends gathered around the open fireplace. Bergman, the son of a clergyman, said his work has also been influenced by a childhood marked by corporal and psychological punishments which created a need to flee into a world of his own. "Hence my difficulty in separating the dream world from the real one. I became a great liar to escape the punishments," he said. "Caning was at the core of upbringing 70 years ago but it was still horrific.". This harsh childhood was portrayed in his last film "Fanny and Alexander" in 1982. Next to the desk in his sparsely furnished office hangs a black and white photograph of a young, beautiful and serene-looking woman. "That's my mother at 20. She was my first love." This is the reason why women are at the centre of so much of his work, he says. CONTROL FREAK A self-confessed "control freak", Bergman said it is important for a director to give clear and detailed instructions to the actors, but this must be done with respect. "It won't work without love. Meanness won't improve a person's performance," he said. But he says he sometimes throws what he calls a "pedagogical outburst" to puncture mounting tension on the set. "I won't tolerate negligence like people coming late and if I see somebody yawning behind the camera then I'll have an outburst." Bergman said new sophisticated digital technology will be perfect for his new television film as it is lighter and easier to use than traditional equipment. The heavy labour of a film director -- wielding big cameras and marshalling crowds of actors and crew -- resembles that of a sculptor in marble, he said. Describing himself as "the most anxious and impatient person", Bergman says it is bizarre he ever took on the work. Among other directors, Bergman says he admires Federico Fellini, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Andrei Tarkovsky and Michelangelo Antonioni. A private cinema with 4,500 video tapes and 400 films on the Baltic island of Faro -- "the only place where I really feel at home" -- testifies to his passion for film. Bergman says he also admires the technical skills of several contemporary directors such as Canada's Atom Egoyan, Sweden's Lukas Moodysson and Denmark's Lars von Trier, who "does not understand what a genius he is". "And then there's the Russian Alexander Sokurov who breaks all the rules on all levels and it is unexpectedly fascinating," he said. Life on Faro is lonely, but Bergman likes it that way. His only social contacts are Saturday telephone calls with the internationally acclaimed actor and life-long friend Erland Josephson, who has played in many of Bergman's films. Bergman walks back through the theatre and stops at seat number three, looking down at the stage. It is late afternoon. Rehearsals have ended and it is quiet apart from a spotlight switching on and off. "Look," he says. "This is the magic moment of the day when they arrange the lighting for the evening performance." ______________________________________________________________________ Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of Reuters Limited Copyright © 2001 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.