The passing of 2 masters
When I was a child, film directors were everything to me. That's because we moved to Los Angeles so my mother could work with them. While other children practiced soccer on Saturdays, I practiced cinema, tagging along while my mother organized screenings and moderated discussions with directors about their films. It was inevitable that while fascinated by cinema, and enamored by the larger than life personalities of directors, I would reject film as an occupation. Nevertheless, this never stopped me from passionately loving it.
From time to time, I have one of those days where I gulp after I hear the news of a famous director passing. In the past 24 hours, there have been two: Sweden's Ingmar Bergman and Italy's Michelangelo Antonioni. While I could handle one in a day, the prospect of two has me in tears, for these were no ordinary filmmakers, these men were auteurs. These filmmakers changed people's lives with their works. They inspired others to dream with motion. Their works encouraged countless others to make choices to spend their lives devoted to creating stories of their own. Today, it is as if two of my great-uncles have passed.
Having never visited Sweden, I have always imagined Sweden through Ingmar Bergman's work. This paradoxical land of beauty and darkness, where the gorgeous grapple with death through long winters and celebrate with no abandon during all-to-brief summers. I was probably nine or ten the first time I watched "The Seventh Seal" and I remember lying in bed that night hoping that I got better at playing chess before I met the man in the black cloak. For some years after, I was convinced that everyone Swedish played chess and so whenever I met anyone Swedish, I'd always suggest checkers.
I was introduced to Antonioni later when I was in film school and watched "Il Deserto Rosso" five times one week. At the time, I don't think I had ever seen such a vividly arresting film made about female depression. The vacancy of the character's interior and exterior worlds resonated with my own feelings on privilege and wealth. The film left me utterly despondent and I was intent on figuring out why. Like a detective, I wrote extensively about the elements of it, trying to dissect why it fascinated me until I gave up and admitted it was just a fantastic film. Antonioni's verve for filmmaking, like Death in the Seventh Seal, prevailed. The minimal pre-techno score still gives me shivers, and for a long period of time after, every time I entered a red room, I couldn't help but hum some score.
But these are only remembrances of two films by filmmakers that collectively created many interesting works, constantly challenging themselves and their viewers. They seemed to approach filmmaking with the same precision that 19th century writers approached novels. Each work stood singularly on its own, each piece comprised of a meticulous individual world packed with a unique cast of characters. Many of their plots were simple, but the films possessed umpteenth transcendental moments. Shots, scenes and ultimately the film as a whole are essential parts of my own visual montage of life.
As I write this, I become less and less sad, and more and more curious to revisit some of their films and to watch others I've never seen. As this is one of the loveliest part about films, while its makers may be mortal, their works remain immortal.
In any event, cheers to the spirit of this two filmmakers..