Bleak Beauty

Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher
Reflections on His Creativity
Irving Singer
The MIT Press, $24.95, 240 pp.

It was with some misgiving that I began Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher, the first new book about the Swedish filmmaker to appear in English since he died last year. Having spent countless hours during the past forty-five years watching Bergman’s films and reading books (and writing one) about him, I wondered if Singer’s slim volume could be more than a rehash of familiar material. By the time I finished reading, my skepticism had given way to appreciative admiration. Singer, a professor of philosophy at MIT, has managed to write a book that is not only informative but also insightful and illuminating.

The critic John Simon wrote in 1972 that “Ingmar Bergman is, in my most carefully considered opinion, the greatest filmmaker the world has seen so far.” Many would agree with Simon, but there isn’t as much agreement about how to interpret Bergman’s work, or what is most valuable about it. Early on in this book, Singer explains his own philosophical approach to the films:

Apart from any unfortunate efforts to duplicate what trained philosophers do, films we consider great are philosophical insofar as the meaningfulness they embody, and the techniques that convey their type of meaningfulness, exploit at a significantly deep level the visual, literary, and sonic dimensions of this art form.

Singer quotes things Bergman said...

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About the Author

Rev. Robert E. Lauder, a priest of the diocese of Brooklyn, is a professor of philosophy at St. John's University, Jamaica, New York, and author of Magnetized by God: Religious Encounters through Film, Theater, Literature, and Paintings (Resurrection Press).