I start NFGG with four film-makers – Bresson, Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel – so I can paint a picture of post-war faith and doubt. For the latter Bergman was a standard-bearer. Here’s what I say:
“Part of Bresson’s appeal was to a generation that was losing faith, not just in God but in human institutions in general. Yet far more than Bresson Bergman seemed to offer some secret solution to the meaning of life and did so in a more palatable way, using as he did much more theatrical means. He has been the subject of much critical discussion, and his films exercised a particular fascination for those who thought of cinema as a serious art-form, posing questions about the existence of God, and about the nature of human behaviour. He became a paragon of film art and of how the important questions of life should be asked, especially in The Seventh Seal (1957). One of the iconic images from the 1950s is that from the opening of the film showing Death and the knight playing chess on the sea-shore in which the stakes for the knight are life and death. (This personification of Death belongs especially to northern Europe, as evidenced by the figure appearing on tombstones in Scotland, and this grim cultural context is important for understanding Bergman’s portrayal of religion.) The film’s title makes reference to the Book of Revelation (Apokalypsis in Greek) and the apocalyptic setting seems to indicate that not just one man’s life is at stake, but – in 1950s Bomb Culture – civilization itself.”
Here is a tombstone from Rodel on Harris in the Outer Hebrides, not the instruments of the Passion but the instruments of death: skull, bones, coffin, hourglass, spades, mallet.
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