Commentary Magazine


Love, Birds, Bergman

To the Editor:

Congratulations on Harris Dienstfrey’s most searching analysis of Ingmar Bergman [“The Success of Ingmar Bergman,” November 1961]; I think he is exactly right. Not that there is anything especially American about the insistence on love as a panacea. There Bergman is in the main tradition of the middlebrow in all countries. Shaw had much to say about it seventy years ago.

I think Bergman’s starting point, in art, is Ibsen and Strindberg. Though I haven’t read the book of psychology he mentions, I’d say there is nothing in the analysis of modern life-in-death that is not to be found in the two greatest Scandinavian writers. Strindberg for that matter sometimes tried to believe in Love as Panacea: but the big point is that he failed. Ibsen could accept the idea only when love had a larger definition, as in Lady from the Sea—and even that is not one of his greatest plays.

Eric Bentley
Columbia University
New York City

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To the Editor:

Mr. Dienstfrey has been reading his Cahiers du Cinema to judge from the sudden invocation of Nicholas Ray, all well and good; but, of course, it is either Irving Lerner or Irvin Kershner. Or are we to understand, as the article in general seems to suggest, that, in COMMENTARY, you can have it both ways?

William S. Pechter
San Francisco, California

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To the Editor:

Harris Dienstfrey wrote an instructive article on Ingmar Bergman. But surely he has mistaken the identity of the bird in the awful first minutes of The Seventh Seal? Gulls have a reputation for stupidity, but Bergman’s bird was a hawk. Anyone who has watched a buzzard will have been impressed with the grandeur, the relentlessness, the grace and dispatch with which Death transacts his business—a point upon which Bergman expatiates in the film.

William H. James
Halifax, Canada

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