To the Editor:
After having seen most of Ingmar Bergman’s film oeuvre, I found myself nodding in agreement with many of Richard Grenier’s observations in “Bergman Discovers Love” [September 1983]. But there are some divergences. For one thing, Alf Sjöberg, the director of Torment (Hets), did not play the role of Isak Borg in Wild Strawberries. The great Victor Sjöström, the director of so many Swedish and Hollywood (as Victor Seastrom) silents, e.g., The Phantom Carriage, The Scarlet Letter, The Wind, played that part, and I believe it was Sjöström’s last contribution to the cinema. Also, Gunnar Fischer continued as Bergman’s cinematographer after The Naked Night; his last Bergman film was The Devil’s Eye in 1960.
People might find this hard to believe, but judging from two viewings of A Lesson in Love, . . . I would say that Bergman has a very good comic sense. A Lesson in Love bears comparison very well with good American film comedies, and the pair of Gunnar Björnstrand and Eva Dahlbeck are worthy to be placed alongside Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, maybe even Cary Grant. The Björnstrand-Dahlbeck magic also holds up in Secrets of Women (which was made first).
Still, Bergman has made some awful junk. Is there a greater director who has made swill like All These Women (probably the worst comedy I’ve ever endured), The Hour of the Wolf, and The Serpent’s Egg? On the other hand, there’s The Magic Flute, probably the best opera film ever made (although my experience of that genre is limited). . . .
I felt a slight sensation of anti-Semitism when I saw Fanny and Alexander. Why is this Jew Isak wearing a yarmulke and looking pious at Christmas dinner? I doubt if there were more than 5,000 Jews in all of Sweden in 1907. And Bergman conveniently picks one of them to be the focus of all kinds of goings-on. Plus the nephew Ismael! Give us a break. . . .