Filmhistorikern och regissören Mark Cousins (Foto: Victoria Moralez)

Mark Cousins skriver brev till Ingmar Bergman

Mark Cousins, aktuell med spelfilmsdebuten «Stockholm my love», skriver brev till Ingmar Bergman, tackar honom för stränderna på Fårö men undrar varför han flydde huvudstaden under 1960-talets förnyelse.

Dear Ingmar Bergman

It's 2017, ten years since you died. The blue sofa in your office in the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm is still there. Your archive of documents is carefully logged in the Filmhuset. The best films are made in the Philippines and Iran these days. You wouldn't believe what's just happened in American politics. Your reputation as an artist is as high as any time since the 1960s.

I want to write to you about the 1960s, if that's OK, and your move to Fårö in 1966. Modernity and feminism were happening in Sweden then but, in going to live on an island, you seemed to turn your back on them. Stockholm was re-inventing itself and looking to the future in those years, but you didn’t seem to want to march to that drum. 

I'm on a train from Scotland to London, from a place of open spaces to one with few of them. I look out the window, eastwards, and see the North Sea. Beyond is where you spent most of your life, another place of open spaces. The central metaphor in your work is the theatre – a confined place – and yet, in your life, you wanted to be the opposite of confined. I think of the rooms in your films, and the landscapes but – and here's my real reason for writing – you don't seem to have been fascinated by cities.

ib på strand

Why not, Ingmar? Aren't they life distilled? I've just made a film called Stockholm My Love, which is about the city. Though much of your childhood was spent there, and though it was in the Hedvig Eleonora church that you famously saw Sjöström's Körkarlen, Stockholm seems not to have troubled your imagination. Why not? You were interested in ideas, and Stockholm is full of them. Stand at the top of the Katarinahissen and look across the cityscape and you can see visual thinking. In my film, Neneh Cherry plays an architect, Alva, who stands there. She's had a crisis in her life and, by walking across Stockholm, she finds that the crisis eases. The city is her consolation, the means of her self loss. By looking at its people, and buildings like Markuskyrkan in Björkhagen and Engelbrektskyrkan, she becomes less imprisoned by her own thoughts, her own sadness.


Many of your characters are similarly trapped, which I suppose is why the enclosure of a theatre was such a central idea for you. Robert Bresson dealt with similar human dilemmas, his great metaphor being the prison. I love your work and his, but as I look out of this train window, as the wheat fields and cliff faces of Scotland whizz by, I am reminded of how liberating travel is. Many of the films I love are road movies and so picaresque. People unravel in the picaresque – think of Don Quixote. Stockholm My Love is a road movie of sorts. I wish your characters had gone on the road more. I wish the pastor in Nattvardsgästerna had set off to, say, Munich. I wish the women in Viskningar och rop had abandoned those blood red rooms and boarded a train.

Most of the people in my films are on the move, but I think that’s because I'm fascinated by recovery – the fortitude that means that people often get better, even when terrible things happen to them. That’s too optimistic for you, I guess.  You were less interested in that threshold between despair and hope. Your way of being honest was to look through a glass, darkly. Could that be a reason why you weren't very interested in Stockholm?  In the end, cities are acts of optimism. They are based on the belief that people can live together. They attract outsiders and people who yearn for sensation. They are, in essence, young, whereas you were most interested in the end of youth. In cities, the tide is in. You wanted to show what's left when the tide goes out. Maybe the archetype at the centre of your cinema isn't the theatre, but the empty beach. So many of your characters are like beached whales, gasping for air. 

The train is in Northumberland now, and I can see its lovely beaches. A man walks his dog across the sand. I hope he is in his bare feet. I want the train to stop so that I can swim.

Thanks for listening, Ingmar, and thanks for your beaches.

Mark Cousins

Av Mark Cousins 23 mars 2017