August 2, 2007

Ingmar Bergman: 1918-2007

There is a very short list of people who I can name, off the top of my head, as influencing my creative development.

Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish film director, is one.

My introduction to him was, believe it or not, from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. The one where they die and Death come to them and they challenge Death to a game . . . of Twister, Battleship, etc. That was a parody of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, in which a knight, fresh from the Crusades, arrives home. Death comes to the knight, and the knight, desperate for a chance to do something worthwhile with his life, challenges Death to a game of chess as a way to put off the inevitable. It's a slow, existential movie that, in bouncing from slapstick to melodrama to genuineness, asks hard questions and gives difficult answers. Questions that Christians need to be asking. Answers that Christians need to grapple with. Bergman himself grew up in a very religious family, and those themes and ideas come up in his movies, but religion is empty and hollow in Bergman's movies. Isolation is a common theme. And yet, in that movie, where some find existential despair, I find some hope in the end of that film.

Bergman died a few days ago. When I found out, one image kept coming into my mind, and I'm sure someone, somewhere has already done this, but this is all I could think about as they talked about his death on the radio:

I've been trying to decide what it means.

I guess it means what it means. In the end, as in the film, Death comes for us all. The question is: do you find hope or despair in that concept?

~ Ben

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