RICK’S JOURNAL – My Film Career
The Face Ingmar Bergman 1958
I am flabbergasted that it took Halliwell’s guide to make me see that this film “may be about the survival of Christianity…” It may be about resurrection, too — personal survival after death. It is certainly about theater. There is a magic lantern, an early fascination of Bergman’s; and there are other lanterns that dot the production design.
In nineteenth century Sweden a traveling troupe with a mesmerist/magician as star is detained in a small town for investigation by the superintendent of police and a medical examiner (a rationalist ideologue). They are put up in the home of a local influential merchant. His wife is grieving the death of their daughter, but she’s randy. There are many colorful characters in the troupe and in the household.
As the plot proceeds and the troupe performs, there is illusion; and there is death. Is death an illusion?. Bergman, of course, has always preferred questions to answers. His earliest film answers seem to reside in his early Christian belief. But then his films more and more move away from those answers. (I almost wrote “evades those answers” but Bergman never evades anything.) He finally appears to reject and deny these earlier convictions and to claim, I think, that he began questioning them earlier than, in fact, he did — though I do not doubt that he sincerely believed that claim when he made it.
(The Halliwell reference is to Halliwell’s 2004 Film Guide, edited by John Walker, Harper Resource.)
The Face was distributed in the United States under the title The Magician.
NEXT POST Friday October 16
See you at the movies,