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Swedish foundation preserves legacy of Ingmar Bergman

By Lennart Simonsson (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-09 08:16
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Deep under the headquarters of the Swedish Film Institute lies a treasure trove: the archive of famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

A thick metal door leads into the storage room where hand-written and typed original manuscripts, drafts, notebooks, production papers, photographs and behind-the-scenes footage from the shooting of Bergman's films, as well as private and professional correspondence, are kept.

Bergman, who died in 2007 at the age of 89, donated the material in 2002.

"The oldest material dates back to the late 1930s," explains Jan Holmberg, director of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation set up to administrate, preserve and provide information about Bergman's works.

Earlier this year, the foundation received a valuable addition - some four hours of taped recordings when Bergman was editing a film.

The recordings were made during his so-called voluntary exile in Germany, Holmberg says, referring to the 1976 incident when Bergman left Sweden for several years after running afoul of the tax authorities.

Bergman was likely unaware that he was being taped during the editing session - so this material could perhaps offer further insights to him at work, Holmberg says. Some behind-the-scene documentaries have been made of Bergman, but in those cases he was aware of the film crew.

The archive offers other leads into Bergman's work and the "creative process", Holmberg says, noting that the director evolved a working method to which he stuck throughout his long career.

The initial stage was to write a draft in a spiral-bound writing-pad. Here he would start by describing his feelings and mood, before gradually immersing himself in the process, Holmberg says, as he holds up a notebook, entitled The Merry Widow.

This was for a film Bergman had planned in the 1970s - with Barbra Streisand in the lead role - based on Franz Lehar's operetta which he had directed for the stage in the 1950s. However, the film was never made.

When Bergman had completed his draft, often with an idea or whim added in the margin, he would write the script - by hand - adding stage instructions.

He favored a special brand of lined notebooks with yellow paper. A stack of unused notebooks make up part of the archive since Bergman bought his supplier's entire stock to make sure he had enough.

A manuscript was then typed up. Several drafts could be made before production work started. The typed manuscript - complete with Bergman's notes, changed lines and sketches of stage instructions - was then bound.

The archive also includes personal diaries and some private correspondence which his family has decided to keep under wraps until 2055, as well as more mundane material, such as a flyer from the city street department announcing when they planned to clean a certain district, Holmberg says.

Almost all of the material has been digitalized, and is available in a database allowing easier access for researchers and protecting it from wear and tear.

During 2011 a project aimed at publishing Bergman's manuscripts and other work will commence. Holmberg notes that there is growing interest in Bergman's work for the stage, including adaptations of various playwrights.

The archive material came from Bergman's home on Faro, just off Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Bergman used the small island as a setting for six films and built a house there in 1967.

Margareta Nordstrom, a former librarian at the Film Institute, helped categorize the material. She also went to Bergman's Faro home to pack the material, which included some film awards.

"He kept all the handwritten manuscripts in a safe," she recalls.

It also appeared that he re-used or returned to look at these scripts, since some were also found in his study.

Material from the Bergman archive is currently on loan to the German film museum, Deutsche Kinemathek, which is hosting an exhibit on Bergman until the end of May. A retrospective on Bergman is also part of the upcoming International Film Festival in Berlin.

Other foundations linked to Bergman include the Bergman Estate on Faro that manages the properties Bergman had on the island and offers artists and others a place to work and relax.

German Press Agency

(China Daily 02/09/2011 page18)

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