Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bergman, Antonioni and the Religiously Inclined.

Even though I'm on vacation, I wanted to call your attention to this piece by Peter Steinfels in today's New York Times, commenting on the deaths of Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. Here's a snippet:
It is an interesting question why so many people serious about religion, believers in particular, feel such a loss at the death of Bergman. His view of religion was anything but benign. He recalled his ultimate loss of faith with great relief. His personal life was not a model. Nor did his films respect proprieties.

One explanation was captured in a phrase appearing in some obituaries and echoed in most. He took on the "big questions" about the human condition: God, faith, desire, doubt, despair, death and, above all, love and its fragility. He did this with a vocabulary of images and language that were often explicitly religious and, when not, were still resonant with implied religious references.

There is an interesting contrast here with Michelangelo Antonioni, the other major filmmaker who died Monday. Of all the other great Italian directors, probably none were so unremittingly secular as Antonioni. His world is severely postreligious, a circumstance that made reflective believers intensely interested in his work, too. For Antonioni, however, the passage from religion was simply a fact; for Bergman it was a struggle.
To read the rest, click here. On the theme of the "big questions" and film, Steinfels concludes that "[i]t was the unflinching seriousness of Bergman's struggle with these questions - regardless of the answers he reached - that made him so important for the religiously inclined. This is especially so because his probing, unlike Antonioni's, recognized the continuing power of the Christian and biblical heritage and the deep resonance of its words and images." Amen. AMDG.


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