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Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1986
Publisher: Duke Univ. Press

An enormous study (575 pages) of the stories, plays and screenplays of Bergman seen as a single 40-year dream play. Gado spent 17 years writing this think-piece, which successfully isolates an Oedipal paradigm at the basis of Bergman's work. He focuses on the screenplays for his psycholiterary analysis, barely scratches at biography, except where a marriage or Bergman's tax problems may impinge on his choice of text. For example, in his middle period, Bergman's marriage to a concert pianist turned him to chamber films (Through a Glass Darkly, The Communicants--known here as Winter Light--and The Silence), partly in imitation of Strindberg's chamber dramas and partly in imitation of chamber music. Bergman had exhausted himself artistically after the rousing successes of Smiles of the Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and the lesser success of The Magician. These screenplays had somewhat slyly suggested strong closures for each work, but this was only sleight-of-hand to mask his themes' ragged endings. He needed a new direction and found it in music and in Korosawa's Rashornon, which he admired intensely and turned to good effect in The Virgin Spring. Gado studies each of Bergman's many stories and plays written before his ad. vent as a filmmaker, when he still hoped to grab Strindberg's banner in the theater. He found that he was not a playwright, was not capable even of a polished short story or novel. Gradually, he discovered that what he did so really well was use the camera as a pen. In one segment of his early Dreams, he allowed the camera to tell much of the story and this was his breakthrough, giving him a weapon with which to begin his major mode. But, whether writing his early theater pieces or his screenplays, he essentially worked on variations of his punishing infancy and youth as the son of a widely admired but weak-willed (and sex-starved) minister and a domineering female intellectual. Bergman himself, according to his siblings, has overblown the family climate--but it's all real to him. Bergmanians must have this indispensable study, which will be the corner stone of all future studies until a definitive biography appears. It's intelligent, deep-running, and readably unpedantic, but not stylish or witty.