Steve Gallagher emailed today to pass on news about the newly launched website of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, “the world’s largest multi-media collection showcasing Ingmar Bergman’s professional career, dating back to 1938.” It’s one of the best single-director websites out there, an exhaustive catalogue of the great director’s work delivered, at times, in a surprisingly light-hearted tone. For example, here’s the opening of the page dealing with Bergman and the theme of Death.
Bergman and Death have become the subject of parody, and a gentle (or otherwise) mockery of the art house cinema scene. The personification of Death in The Seventh Seal has been made fun of – or more respectfully extolled – in countless films, television programmes and cartoon comics. Death has made an intriguing journey from the European art house to popular entertainment. The Bergman inspired image of death is so prevalent that it prompts Hubert I. Cohen, in his book Ingmar Bergman: The Art of Confession, to reflect: “In fact, at times we may even half-imagine that a black-cloaked figure wearing a stocking-tight, black cowl around his chalk-white face is going to attend our own expiring, and that he will be speaking Swedish – with English subtitles across his waist.
Death is certainly a recurring theme in Bergman’s films, yet hardly more so than in the work of many other filmmakers. And more people die in virtually any action film than in Bergman’s entire oeuvre. That Bergman and death should feature in Bergman’s Universe is therefore almost entirely due to The Seventh Seal. But the theme did not begin there….