Smiles of a Summer Night
May Issue of HI Art, 2009
In these years I am rather idle and have not drawn a lot. In the day I go skating and practice calligraphy occasionally, while at night I spent most of my time in seeing films and videos. Some of my friends felt I that want to change my career. I told them that it will take a long time to create excellent ink-and-wash paintings, and I will naturally produce good works after I have found peace and inspiration from my life, so nothing to worry about.
Recently a Retrospective Exhibition for Ingmar Bergman was held during Beijing Student Film Festival. The film festival has a history of 16 years, and in my memory, this is the first time it has included a retrospective show for a foreign movie master. No matter whether it is hosted by students or controlled by teachers or functional departments of the government, we can learn from the exhibition that the hosts have widened their view and, especially, their ambition. They no longer focus on Chinese directors such as Zhang Yimou; rather, they turn to Krzysztof Kieslowski directly. Things have really changed. Richter came to China last year, and no one, the official or the public, noticed him. What a pity! However, then they rounded away just like mice seeing a cat.
In my mind, it is Bergman who has integrated philosophical rational ideas with films, and who is able to shoot his films freely like writers composing their works. He is not only the most important film director in the history of Sweden, but also a world-acknowledged leading master in film history. He has created more than 40 films, and they are different from European neo-realistic ones created then as well as those created by his equivalents and contemporaries such as Fellini, Antonioni and Tarkovsky. His movies are not only related with his own experience, but also associated closely with culture in Sweden which is his homeland and an island country beyond the European Continent. Hence his films extremely differ from those, which are rather lame and without a fixed position, made by many of Chinese directors. On the premiere his early work Smiles of a Summer Night, a black and white film, was shown. It was shot in 1955, featuring Eva Dahlbeck and Ulla Jacobsson. In this standard work of him in his early years, Bergman described the confused love affairs among a successful lawyer, his son, an Earl and their wives in a village. Full of dramatic plots, the film contained little outdoor scene. This was the first time that Bergman, through a film, analyzed the complexity and helplessness of humanity before his audience. It was influenced by The Merry Widow, another film directed by him, and was commonly considered as a masterpiece created with perfect techniques. In this movie, it was women who could dominate the war of gender, while men were put at disadvantage. With it, Bergman has won a special prize on Cannes Film Festival in 1955, and after that he has also produced other representative works such as The Seventh Seal (1957) and the trilogy on faith and mistrust --- Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963) and Silence (1963). He said the trilogy showed a process that he broke away from the faith in the God, “the sacred lie that covered one’s vision”, went from an obtained confirmation to a revealed one and finally saw the God’s silence. These three films have not only demonstrated issues on faith and mistrust, but also presented the “simplification and restoration” in aesthetics: this is a unique feature of Bergman’s movies. He has proved that his films are highly representative and closely related with typical modern topics on art in the 20th Century. This kind of art itself is a signal of modern crisis, and at the same time, it is also describing the crisis: the resistance against authority and the disruption of, mistrust as well as negation towards absolute value.
Just like painters’ painting brush and rice paper, Bergman’s movie camera and film are his excellent tools for expressing his ideas and feelings; and Sven Fox Film Industry Corporation, like a gallery to artists, has cooperated with him for years and distributed most of his works.
Even now I still remember the proud smile on the Swedish ambassador’s face when he announced that now on each night Bergman’s films can be found in at least one cinema all over the world.
Tuesday, April 21th, 2009