Ingmar Bergman was important–but not to me. I blogged about him in 2003, and haven’t seen any of his films since then. No doubt the loss is mine, but his work and my temperament were incompatible.
I saw his adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts on stage around the same time, and reviewed it for The Wall Street Journal:
Speaking of socially significant plays, the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden is performing Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” this week at Brooklyn’s BAM Harvey Theater in a new version translated, “adapted” and directed by the 84-year-old Ingmar Bergman, who says it is his farewell to the stage. Written in 1881, “Ghosts” was the great problem play of the Victorian era, a veritable hurricane of sexual candor, but even in Mr. Bergman’s goosed-up adaptation, which makes coarsely explicit every kink Ibsen left to the viewer’s imagination, it now comes off as a tiresomely talky piece of bourgeois-baiting, as smug as Shaw but without his compensating wit.
The staging itself is painfully static–almost exactly what you’d expect from a film director who didn’t know his way around a proscenium stage–and had I not been listening through infrared headphones to an English translation of a Swedish adaptation of a Norwegian play, I would have sworn I was watching a mediocre regional-theater production rather than the swan song of one of the indisputably major moviemakers of the 20th century. Would that Mr. Bergman had contrived a better exit for himself, but you can’t win ’em all.
So sue me.