(from July 2005.)
I'm rediscovering the greatness of Bergman and Bresson this summer aswell. When I first really got into movies when I was 16, I spent about 18 months absorbing the masters. Then I moved on after that initial intake,because I had to branch out into so many other avenues of the cinematic universe. But there was a box set of Bergman's films that came out last year that I'd never seen before, and two of Bresson's films were just recently released on DVD, so I decided to revisit them. What geniuses those two men were! Bresson may have been the greatest filmmaker of his time (next toTarkovsky, of course). The purity and philosophical rigor of his filmshave been matched by so very few. And Bergman is one of the best at delivering great emotional potency within such a controlled, terrifying aesthetic.
I also noticed something about his work that had gone unnoticed by me previously: there is a direct fissure between the films he did with Gunnar Fischer as cinematographer (1950-1958) and Sven Nykvist (1960-1982). There is an earthiness, an atmospheric nature to the films with Fischer (Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician). There is hope and the celebration of humanity in those films. Bergman tightens the noose when he began with Nykvist (The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, Persona, Cries and Whispers). The bleakness and emptiness that a human soul can experience, without the redeeming joy,takes center stage in those films. It is fascinating to watch the shift.