This product of Bergman's old age (his term) shows him ever the maverick, among the century's most fertile and original...


THE MAGIC LANTERN: An Autobiography

This product of Bergman's old age (his term) shows him ever the maverick, among the century's most fertile and original geniuses, and still loamy with theater works despite ending his film career. Sustained and intense, this is by far the best Bergman book from his pen to be seen in English and has none of the flimsiness of his scripts or hyperintellection of his commentators. In fact, some of the most shadowy if not repellent faces of his movies--his horror-ridden underside--are left to speak for themselves and go uninterpreted here by Bergman, who either sloughs off his most bilious failures (e.g., The Serpent's Egg) or lets things stand with the comment that he still doesn't believe in God but believes mightily in the creative spirit and his own demons. At times here he strives for the demonic zip of Strindberg's Inferno and the great dramatist's Homeric marital squabbles. But Bergman's wives and mistresses have either died or been reconciled to him, and he clearly has his ups and downs with his many children--did they inherit the genetic Bergmanian chill? Or perhaps take his more antihuman themes too seriously? In any event, his autobiography hops about at will and satisfactorily covers his film career without ever getting down to the nuts and bolts of production. (For this the reader can turn to 1986's Bergman on Bergman, a series of very frank interviews covering his films up through 1969.) He is more outgoing about his theater work, though his recent magnificently irreverent Hamlet is mentioned only in passing. We get the usual adolescent sex fumblings and discoveries, the towering egocentricity of his young manhood, the vomitous self-loathing, diarrhea and stomach ulcers that have punished him as justly deserved psychosomatic whippings; his whirlwind passions (Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson); his self-mockery at his more dumb-born creations; and meetings with Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo (""her beauty floated about her""), Ingrid Bergman, Laurence Olivier, and Herbert von Karajan, as well as with many Swedish film/theater geniuses. His warmest writing herein is about cantankerous Victor Sjostrom, the aged hero of Wild Strawberries. Fearless self-skewering, richly done.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1988

ISBN: 0226043827

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988