Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher
Irving Singer, Professor of Philosophy MIT
Description: His latest book, Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher, came about quite accidentally, Irving Singer recounts. Singer was writing a book about several filmmakers, and discovered, when starting on the Bergman chapter, that the filmmaker had directed dozens of movies. Singer set out to explore this oeuvre _ no easy task, since only the most recognizable titles are to be found at Netflix or the public library.
Thus began Singer's ardent exploration of Bergman, and his appreciation of Bergman's genius. "He created a new art form by combining his talents as a man of the theater, cinema and TV," says Singer. In this lecture, he discusses how Bergman used philosophical ideas "in an extended sense" -- not by including philosophical discussions in his films, but through his masterful use of cinematic technique to examine the particularities of human experience.
Singer describes how Bergman wove aspects of his own life's story into his films, in intense and vivid ways. A son of a harsh Lutheran priest, Bergman was nearly paralyzed by his fear of death. Singer recounts how Bergman worked through a series of movies with religious significance ( Through a Glass Darkly , Winter Light , The Seventh Seal ), and was finally "cured of his fear of death." He also became an atheist, but may have returned to some kind of religious faith at his life's end.
Singer quotes Bergman denying that his "movies are full of symbols." Rather, Bergman used close"ups of faces and hands (relying on a repertory company of 18 actor"friends), and created bleak landscapes and silences, to convey feelings like fear, isolation and oppression, in contrast to the comedic and optimistic elements in many of his films. Singer reads a selection from his book that deals with the film, From the Life of the Marionettes , which is "the most consummate expression of Bergman's pessimistic vision." Singer draws analogies to Hitchcock's Psycho , but believes Bergman goes much farther, examining political evil, and how contemporary capitalist society "dehumanizes, and turns people into emotional illiterates."
About the Speaker(s): Irving Singer has been writing a cycle of four books on the philosophy of film, all of which are now finished and have been or shortly will be published by The MIT Press: Reality Transformed: Film as Meaning and Technique (1998, paperback 2000); Three Philosophical Filmmakers: Hitchcock, Welles, Renoir (2004, paperback 2005); Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher: Reflections on his Creativity (2007); Cinematic Mythmaking: Philosophy in Film (2008). He has also published an expanded edition of his book Sex: A Philosophical Primer (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004) and completed more than half of a new book on the nature of creativity.
Host(s): Office of the Provost, MIT Libraries
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