Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Musik i mörker

Quite evident as the work of an early Bergman, Musik i mörker (Music in Darkness) is more raw and hitting on some of the themes that Bergman grappled throughout his life, just because the argument's just begun, as opposed to the continuation in his later works. Most early Bergman films had Birger Malmsten as the hero, and he is here again typecast as the overtly sensitive young man plunged into blindness caused due to an accident, not mitigated by the fact that that accident happened due to his love for animals and nature.

While the film overall is touching, the cast disappoints me just a shade. While Malmsten was perfect in Summer Interlude, I still reserve doubts over him in this film in spite of his looking so naturally a sensitive, sacrificing young man: he would have been a better choice in Sommaren med Monika (Summer with Monika) as the jilted lover. Malmsten doesn't look a proud accomplished, upper-crust Bengt Vyldeke calling Ingrid (played by Mai Zetterling) a "little wench" and nor later a very decided man. Though this also lends a shade of tragedy to the film which does not end on a too happy note: the lovers have married against society's odds and fighting their insecurities, but the future is still too uncertain and the viewer doesn't know who will break first, or will they last for ever. Zetterling herself in the role of Ingrid is wonderfully assured, and has a face of angels, and is dreamy which is difficult to bring out in a film: yet it is maybe the director who uses her as Hollywood used to use its heroines, just angels to save men or vamps to jilt them, with the god in creation being the hero even in a love story! One of the most Hollywood-esque scenes is when Bengt plays the music upstairs and Ingrid gets thrilled by it, and the camera just focuses on her getting thrilled for quite a long time and quite a strong unneeded light on Ingrid's face.

Another disappointment turns out to be the loose screenplay: the incidents of the hotel where Malmsten worked, the railway station where he almost gets crushed, the thief and subsequent confrontation with the hotel proprietor are all meant to show Malmsten's decline through society as well as in his own character, yet each of them is an end left untied, leaving an imperfectly wrought film. It is as if Bergman is just putting one by one all the arguments in a list that he means to, and not elaborating on them, not even indicating why to have here such an argument. Aunt Beatrice's conversation on suicide is a pertinent example: it has no precedent or follow-up in the film, despite considering the atheist views as well as suicidal tendencies of the hero.

As a story and as a visual, the film works. As much accomplished as Bengt was and is, he still doesn't have the love that Ingrid overflows with, and a faith in humanity and God, and it is almost as Raskolnikov and Sonya that they start now their married life: all might go awry, yes, but a tincture of hope is there that Bengt might finally be able to love people and thus himself. It is only then that he can truly love his most prized possession and treasure: Ingrid.

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