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Wex Retrospective Celebrates Bergman’s 100th Birthday

Hope Madden Hope Madden Wex Retrospective Celebrates Bergman’s 100th BirthdayPhoto via IMDb.
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Nine-time Oscar nomineengmar Bergman would have turned 100 years old on July 14. The Wexner Center for the Arts celebrates the visionary director’s big day with a retrospective of his work, running from Thursday, July 5 through Wednesday, August 15.

The lineup today doesn’t look the way it might have in the past, says Chris Stults, Associate Film/Video Curator at the Wex.

“This program is put together a lot differently than how a theater would have done it maybe 10 or 20 years ago,” he says. “In the past, a lot of the big titles were always shown so I think there’d be a focus on more of the obscurities. But now, with so little repertory cinema happening, so many of these films that used to play in theaters all the time, people never have the chance to see. So it’s kind of an opportunity to see as many of his most known films, trying to get as many of his 35 mm prints as are available.”

Which is not to say the program will skimp on obscurities.

“I think it was really a focus on a lot of the ones that are crying out to be seen in a theater, a lot of his canonical titles,” Stults says of the final lineup, “with a few little oddities mixed in, like The Touch, a movie he made in the Seventies with Elliot Gould.”

What is it about Bergman that makes his work so ideal for a big screen?

“He’s really good at capturing the intensity of human emotion,” Stults says. “Being in a dark room with these larger than life faces—he’s famous for his close ups— the level of nuance and intensity are muted a bit in your living room versus in a cinema.”

As it happened, one of Bergman’s biggest fans paid a recent visit to the Wex and shared some thoughts on the director.

“We were able to get John Waters to make a little trailer for our Bergman series,” Stults says. “We’re doing an exhibition of his in the winter and he came to see the galleries and plot out the exhibition. We knew he’s a big fan and we got him to tell us some of his favorite Bergman stories.”

“People forget,” Stults says. “There’s this real high-brow view of Bergman at this point, but when his films were first showing in the States in probably the Fifties, he was showing alongside exploitation filmmakers and dealt with sexuality in ways that American films weren’t. John Waters talk about how Brink of Life was the first time he ever saw a character puke in a film.”

Waters is not his only famous fan, according to Stults.

“I think Ingmar Bergman is the only person who had a film that inspired a song by both Scott Walker and Van Halen,” he says. “They both wrote songs about The Seventh Seal. There’s also a Muppets parody of Bergman called Silent Strawberries.”

The timing obviously coincides with Bergman’s birthday, but are there other reasons to look at his work today?

“It seems like a real interesting moment to look at Bergman again and reassess his career—what it means in 2018, how it’s held up,” Stults says. “There’s a great story about Greta Gerwig, that she’d just been so intimidated by Bergman, that he’d been held up with such solemnity, and then she saw one of his films and was shocked at how human it was. You have to discover that for yourself on a personal level. It will be interesting to cut through the noise and deal with the films themselves.”

Ingmar Bergman Centennial Lineup:
Thursday, July 5, 7 p.m.: Wild Strawberries (1957)
Friday, July 6, 7 p.m.: Summer with Monika (1953)
Saturday, July 7, 7 p.m.: Persona (1966)
Thursday, July 12, 7 p.m.: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
Thursday, July 12, 9 p.m.: Brink of Life (1958)
Friday, July 13, 7 p.m.: Liv & Ingmar (documentary, Dheeraj Akolkar, 2012)
Saturday, July 14, 7 p.m.: The Seventh Seal
Thursday, July 19, 7 p.m.: The Virgin Spring
Thursday, July 26, 7 p.m.: Shame
Thursday, July 26, 8:45 p.m.: Hour of the Wolf
Tuesday, July 31, 7 p.m.: The Touch (1970)
Thursday, August 2, 7 p.m.: Fanny and Alexander
Tuesday, August 7, 7 p.m.: Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Tuesday, August 7, 8:45 p.m.: Winter Light (1962)
Thursday, August 9, 7 p.m.: The Silence
Wednesday, August 15, 7 p.m.: Cries and Whispers (1972)
Wednesday, August 15, 8:45 p.m.: Autumn Sonata (1978)

Tickets are $6 for members, students and seniors, $8 for the general public. One ticket gets you into both films in a double feature.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly movie podcast, SCREENING ROOM.

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