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Monday December 10, 07:26 AM

Demons haunt cinema maestro

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

"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.


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

"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

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

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.


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."


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