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Bewildering Stories

Bertil Falk writes about...

Ingmar Bergman

I read Bill Bowler’s kind reaction to my essay in issue 242 and found that he tripped over my Bergman provocation. In the beginning of the 1970’s, I walked on a street in Manhattan together with Hans Stefan Santesson, once upon a time the editor of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction and The Saint Mystery Magazine. We went into a shop and talked in Swedish. The man behind the desk exclaimed: “Ingmar Bergman!” He had recognized the language of the Bergman movies.

Many years later a new Bergman movie was shown in Manhattan. Some reviewer wrote something to the effect: “Rush to the theatre, for next week the movie will be dubbed.” The reviewer obviously wanted the sound of Swedish and not the dubbed version. Fair enough! Humphrey Bogart speaking German is a ludicrous experience.

In Sweden, young people today react against Bergman movies because the language does not sound natural, neither do the dialogs. So in a way, at least to some Swedes, Bergman dubbed into English or any other language for that matter could be described as a blessing. (In Sweden movies are subtitled, not dubbed.)

I did not say and I did not mean that Spiderman’s dialog is more interesting than anything Bergman did. But I think it is fair to say that Stan Lee and other Marvel writers are much better, more skillful when it comes to structuring dialogs. That will perhaps be appreciated one hundred years from now.

The first issues of The Silver Surfer are almost Shakespearian. And when Spiderman’s alter ego on a colorful silver screen tells the red-haired lady that Spiderman loves her, it is a highlight of its kind in its particular context, almost as good as chapter LVI of Pride and Prejudice. There, Lady Catherine de Bourgh scolds Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who on her part retaliates in a skillful manner — the very pinnacle of literary table tennis. Written more than 200 years ago!!

Now, I don’t belong to the Bergman haters. There are enough of them as well as of worshipers. The Seventh Seal, mentioned by Bill Bowler, is for sure a Black Death masterpiece with overtones of fantasy. (By the way, the idea of Death playing chess is to be found on a 15th century wall painting in the church of Täby north of Stockholm. You can see the painting at this link.

And now I look forward to the conclusion of “The Boy with Orange Hair.” Pluto next?

Bertil Falk

Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

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