“Everything represents: nothing is”.
Bergman revisited – a Centennial Conference (1918-2018)
“Tudo representa: nada é”.
Bergman revisitado – uma conferência no seu centenário (1918-2018)
“Das Bekannte überhaupt ist darum, weil es bekannt ist, nicht erkannt”
“What is well-known is not known, precisely because it is well-known”
(Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface)
2018 commemorates the centenary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth. To honour and to adress the artistic legacy of this great master, the University of Évora / ‘Cinema-fora-dos Leões’ and the Department of Philosophy, together with ‘Colecção B’, is organizing next 24th-27th October, in partnership with Leopardo Filmes, the Bergman Foundation and the Embassy of Sweden in Portugal, plus the support of the Alentejo Cultural Directory, the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, and the CHAIA (Universidade de Évora), Práxis (Universidade da Beira Interior/ Universidade de Évora) and CFUL (Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa) Research Centers, an International Conference and a select screening of Bergman’s cinematic oeuvre in the world heritage town of Évora, Portugal.
From the heights of his towering presence amidst the landscape of European art film, the core of the perhaps too well-known Bergman’s work remains an enigma to date, and stirs a thought-provoking network of questions: is there an innermost, ultimate meaning inhabiting Ingmar Bergman’s artistic thought and creative output – and, if so, how are we to define it? Or, asking more broadly: what are the formal-stylistic, aesthetic, thematic, philosophical, film-specific, performative features circumscribing this undeniable unity of meaning which, on the other hand, always eludes definition?
In a further line of consideration, beside the filmmaker, there stands also Bergman the writer and screenwriter, the stage director, the producer, the theatre manager, the man of culture impregnated with a wealth of interartistic references, who is able to mobilize ingeneously devised intermedial resources going from literature to music, from architecture to painting, but also keen on bridging the gap between high culture and the popular world of circus and travelling players. The name or brand ‘Bergman’ points, in fact, to a vast realm whose internal complexity begs for further exploration.
The public access to his archives through the edition of parts of his writings, together with the published original scripts, add yet another revealing side to the polyhedron Bergman, a multilayered treasure offered to the study of the scholar and the loving care of the film geek, that invites the launching of a larger meeting that can bring together the community of Bergman enthusiasts in a scientific symposium. Bearing testimony to the same process of a ‘return to Bergman’ (or will it be ‘of Bergman’?), the growing international interest on the multidimensionality of his monumental body of work translates itself into a profusion of new books and essays, conferences and academic dissertations. This voluminous bibliography, embracing both primary and secondary sources, constitutes the current basis for any serious undertaking within the field of Bergman Studies.
In this context, the initial pretext of a commemoration of the anniversary surmounts itself towards the more formal purpose of setting an international conference guided by the epistemological aim of reopening and retargeting the central thematics of the Bergman field.
Furthermore, it is not just the classic Bergman agenda that has recently entered on an era of new extensions, multiplied viewpoints and general updating, so to say by means of an immanent logic: concurring with this movement from the opposite side, we can assist to a massive renewal of the theoretical approaches and frameworks within the several disciplines of ancilar import to the interpretation of a major cinematic oeuvre such as Bergman’s, namely in film studies and film-philosophy.
This critical resettlement of classic theoretical topics (ex. g., gender representation, auteur theory) or the introduction of new avenues (socio-cultural contexts, as complementing the traditional psychological and psychoanalytic pathways; or even a change of accent in the psychoanalytic matrix, from Freud to Lacan, for instance), lend an extra hermeneutical dynamic which combines a double movement: that of the interpreted thing and the one of its interpretation.
Meanwhile, cross vectors and incompossible theorems configurate the Bergmanian field: indisputable auteur, or: master of his means of expression and of production, few like Bergman ilustrate better ‘on the move’ the medium-specifity of cinema (as ground for the creative powers above and beyond those of the auteur’s authorship); but, on the other hand, those are even rarer who, like Bergman, root such medium-specificity deeper in that intermedial poliphony which re-mediates the theatrical, the literary, ‘existencialism’, the pictorial and the musical elements until that reversion attains (without loosing their differential grain) the state of ‘pure cinematics’. And, even less frequently, doing so with an acute creative consciousness of the elective affinities that encompass in an exquisit inequation the intermedial reign of technology (or of ‘art’) and the intersensorial domain of human experience (or of ‘life’).
The sinuous graphic of the historical-cultural fortune of Bergman – either in the spotlight, or half-forgotten in oblivion, or reemerging in a pantheon he could never have abandoned – describes also the historicity of the reception aesthetics of his opus, as eloquent about the subject-matter as about the interpretation itself, about the object as about the theory – and mainly about the indissoluble bond between both poles of knowledge. The ongoing ‘conflict of interpretations’ within the critical field comes to add its spice to this fascinating object converted into a field of study on the second degree, and such is the state of the art our scientific meeting will endeavour to match.
The persistency of Bergman amongst the top list of the ‘films to bring to our island’, demands from us a task akin to that of cinema: coming back again and again to the art of distributing wisely the lights and the shadows.