Ingmar Bergman’s anguish back in spotlight for centenary

This file photo taken on June 2, 2003 shows Swedish legendary movie director and play writer Ingmar Bergman in Stockholm. Bergman, who died in 2007 at the age of 89, would have turned 100 on July 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2017

Ingmar Bergman’s anguish back in spotlight for centenary

STOCKHOLM: Swedish film legend Ingmar Bergman, whose tales of anguished love and loneliness made him one of the 20th century’s leading directors, is back in the spotlight with a series of events to mark the centenary of his birth.
Bergman, who died in 2007 at the age of 89, would have turned 100 on July 14, 2018.
To celebrate the occasion, the Ingmar Bergman Foundation has launched a year of festivities around the world.
His plays will be staged in numerous cities, and French, German and Swedish documentaries about the filmmaker — who was tormented by childhood, women and death — are to hit screens. Retrospectives, seminars and exhibitions will also be organized.
“Can you imagine, 60 remakes” of his plays have been staged so far, actress Liv Ullmann, one of Bergman’s muses and his onetime romantic partner, said in a telephone interview.
“By next year, there’ll be up to a hundred of them. That means the world is fascinated... They feel that Ingmar has something to say,” said the 78-year-old, who starred in Bergman’s films “Persona” (1966), “Shame” (1968) and “Autumn Sonata” (1978).
She also directed “Faithless” in 2000, based on Bergman’s script.
Some of Bergman’s previously unpublished writings, including notebooks, drawings and collages, will also be released. A feverish writer, his diaries are full of doodles, notes and reflections.
While Bergman rose to international fame through his movies, his bleak, powerful and dark storytelling is best expressed on the stage, according to Ullmann.
In his plays his writing is “clearer” to the audience, said the Norwegian actress.
The camera’s filter, the violence or the beauty of the scenes, the vivid colors as seen in “Cries and Whispers” (1972) or the icy imagery Bergman used, all create a certain cinematic distance, she said.
“If you put it on stage you come closer.... to the words,” she said.
As part of the centenary celebrations, Hagai Levi, the creator of the popular television series “The Affair,” is to direct a TV remake of Bergman’s 1973-1974 “Scenes from a Marriage,” which explores the disintegration of a couple’s marriage.
The son of a Lutheran minister and a nurse, Bergman was born in 1918 in the Swedish town of Uppsala, north of Stockholm, and had a strict religious upbringing, the influence of which was noticeable in many of his films.
Bergman had a deep attachment to Sweden, though his work was not always met with the same praise there as abroad. Swedes often felt he gave the country an undeserving reputation for gloominess.
A storyteller of Nordic anguish, Bergman’s work is often profound, solemn and challenging, a monument to his fears and passions.
His career spanned the second half of the 20th century, alongside film greats Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Luis Bunuel and Akira Kurosawa.
Although Bergman wrote dozens of plays during his time at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, he rose to fame thanks to his films — with recurring themes of sexual emancipation, death and isolation, as in “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” both from 1957.
He won three Oscars in the best foreign language film category for “Fanny and Alexander” (1982), “The Virgin Spring” (1960) and “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961).
“Saraband,” shot digitally in 2003 for television four years before his death, was his last film, which Ullmann said he wrote for her.
She said Bergman made it clear he was done with film at the end of that production.
“On the last day of shooting, he stood by the door and said bye-bye and didn’t even stay for dinner,” she said, adding that Bergman flew to Faro, the small Swedish island in the Baltic Sea where he had a home and filmed several of his movies.
When Bergman won the prestigious Palm of the Palms award in 1997 at the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, he snubbed the ceremony to stay on his island, reinforcing the reputation he had earned as a difficult artist.
“When they start to print his books and his diaries, you will find a man who really wanted to do good in life,” Ullmann said.
“He’s not this demon” that people made him out to be, she said, referring to his signature doodle he drew on his notebooks and manuscripts of a devil with horns, a tail and a pitchfork.

‘It’s only a matter of time’: Black Panther creator foresees a Middle Eastern Marvel hero on the big screen

Updated 19 April 2018

‘It’s only a matter of time’: Black Panther creator foresees a Middle Eastern Marvel hero on the big screen

  • Stan Lee co-created Black Panther with Jack Kirby in 1966
  • He saw a need for a black superhero in comic books, mirroring that need in film decades later

DUBAI: Black Panther creator Stan Lee foresees a Middle Eastern Marvel hero on the big screen: ‘It’s only a matter of time’

When Black Panther became the first movie to screen in Saudi Arabia’s cinemas in 35 years at last night’s gala in Riyadh, it was the exclamation point at the end of an outstanding box office run for perhaps the most important film of 2018. 

Seeing a superhero film featuring a predominantly black cast has been a huge social moment for many people of color across the world, cementing a new era for the genre and mainstream cinema as a whole. 

When Stan Lee co-created Black Panther with Jack Kirby in 1966, he never dreamed it would be as significant as it became.

“It wasn’t a huge deal to me. It was a very normal natural thing,” Lee told HuffPost Canada. “A good many of our people here in America are not white. You’ve got to recognize that and you’ve got to include them in whatever you do. If my books and my stories can change that, can make people realize that everybody should be equal, and treated that way, then I think it would be a better world.”

Nonetheless, he saw a need for a black superhero in comic books, mirroring that need in film decades later.

“At that point, I felt we really needed a black superhero,” Lee told HuffPost Canada. “And I wanted to get away from a common perception. So what I did, I made him almost like [Fantastic Four’s] Reed Richards. He’s a brilliant scientist and he lives in an area that, under the ground, is very modern and scientific and nobody suspects it because on the surface it’s just thatched huts with ordinary ‘natives.’ And he’s not letting the world know what’s really going on or how brilliant they really are.”

Lee briefly appears in the landmark film, though he wished he could do more. 

“I’m a little disappointed in my Black Panther cameo,” Lee told the audience of ACE Comic Con in Arizona a few months ago. “I had wanted a great fight scene where I fight the Black Panther to a standstill. I didn’t get that, but I want you to see the movie anyway. Even though it’s not my greatest cameo, you owe it to me to see it.”

Lee, though he has not been able to come visit the Middle East, has appeared multiple times via satellite at the Middle East Film and Comic Con to answer questions from devoted fans in Dubai.

“It’s incredible that they have one out there,” he told Arab News. “They’ve always treated me kind and with the utmost respect. They are an A-class show.”

Though he’s decided that he can no longer travel abroad, he still has hope he can come see his fans in the Middle East soon.

“You never know, I can always change my mind and make a surprise appearance somewhere,” Lee says. 

When asked whether Marvel will introduce a Middle Eastern superhero on the big screen, Lee has no doubt it will happen. “It’s only a matter of time,” Lee said.

In his lifetime, Marvel has become one of the strongest brands in the world, especially since the launch of Marvel Studios
10 years ago with Iron Man. While Black Panther has become one of its greatest successes, Lee sees this as a continuation of the legacy that he began with his collaborators more than 50 years ago.

“It’s always been Marvel time. I think people are embracing these heroes because it’s fun. Comic books have always been about stories that you can enjoy and believe in. There is a greater acceptance to that now more than ever,” Lee said. 

Of all his creations, Spider-Man remains Lee’s favorite, co-created with Steve Ditko with help from Kirby. 

“The reason is because anybody can be Spider-Man under that mask,” including Miles Morales, the Black-Latinx character who will appear in the upcoming Sony/Marvel animation film Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse. 

Lee is also happy to see Spider-Man back in the Marvel cinematic universe, including the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. 

“It’s been a long time coming but I’m very happy that he’s here now,” Lee says.

Important to Lee is that his characters, including Spider-Man and Black Panther, are imperfect, which is one reason why they resonate with audiences to this day. 

“I wanted to have my characters with flaws,” he said. “I wanted them to be more like an ordinary person having every day issues.”  

Lee said that in his long career, he has no regrets, with his only wish “to be remembered as a person who brought a little happiness to the world.”